A Closer Look at Bird Populations

A Closer Look at Bird Populations


You have probably often looked out your window and noticed the birds flitting from tree to tree or, if you live in a city, from building to building. You’ve also probably noticed different species of birds at different times of year. Have you ever wondered where the birds go when they’re not in your neighborhood? Scientists also have wondered the same thing and they use various methods of scientific inquiry to try to determine bird population movements. The activities in this lesson will help you understand how scientists discern patterns and changes in bird populations.


Gathering Data About Bird Population Movement

How do we gather data about birds? Go to Bird Monitoring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find out. Read the introductory paragraphs and answer these questions:

  • What is bird monitoring?
  • Why is it done?
  • What kind of information is gathererd?
  • Who do you think gathers the information?

Now go to the North American Breeding Bird Survey and answer these questions:

  • What is the North American Breeding Bird Survey?
  • Who participates in it?
  • What do participants do?

Read Instructions for Conducting the North American Breeding Bird Survey and answer these questions:

  • How would you describe the procedures that bird monitors must follow?
  • What sort of a commitment do volunteers have to make?
  • Why is it important the procedure be followed carefully?
  • How do you think this information is used?

Monitoring the Movement of Bird Populations

One of the ways researchers use the information gathered by bird monitoring projects is to study the movements of bird populations and how these might change from year to year. Why do you think this might be important?

Go to Movements of Bird Populations from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Read the Overview and the Discussion. Use the information on these pages to complete the table on the Bird Populations student sheet your teacher has given you. Be prepared to discuss these questions with the class:

  • What questions are the scientists trying to answer?
  • Why would it be difficult for just one person to see what a population of birds is doing? What are the obstacles?
  • What has the Birdsource Project done to make it easier to study bird populations? What are some of the methods used?
  • What are some of the types of bird movements described?

This esheet is a part of the Bird Populations lesson.

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