Ask scouts: What does a bird need to have on or in its body to be considered a bird?
*Needs to have a backbone/spine, feathers, wings, scaly legs, beak, no teeth, young born in a hard shelled egg
Birds live all over the world and do lots of amazing things. Scientists, like biologists and ornithologists, observe and study birds. So do citizen scientists like us! Since there are 9,700 species of birds (about 50 million birds altogether) all over the world, people need things to help describe and identify birds. We can consider a bird’s habitat (where it lives), it’s behaviors, colors of it’s feathers, and songs/sounds. Merlin ID is a special app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to help people ID birds.
*Have scouts go look for a bird out their window/outside and notice it’s size, main feather colors, location (at a feeder, on a tree, flying, swimming, on the ground, on fence/wire) then come back to report and see if Merlin ID
can figure it out. If on Zoom, have a leader or a senior scout share their screen with the Merlin app open (this only worked for us with a leader logged in from their phone with the app open). Ask for a scout to volunteer to share the description of their bird. (If a scout didn’t see a bird, they can also describe a common bird they see in their yard.) Walk through the Merlin app in real time, asking the scout for the size, color, etc for each prompt. Confirm with the scout if the bird Merlin names is the one they saw.
Question for the scouts: why are there seagulls in St Louis (substitute your city and a migratory bird here) but no oceans/large bodies of water? (get guesses/answers then talk about gulls coming south from the Great Lakes/Canada in the winter and migration) There’s a good food supply and safe nesting sites for lots of birds that make this their winter destination or are coming through on their migratory paths up in this area. So – why do birds migrate?
*Have scouts draw/describe their own mental map of a “migration” they do if there’s time
Wrap-up – learned what a bird is and how to identify different types of birds. Use the tools we’ve learned about to observe birds on your own. You can even report your observations to the Cornell Lab like other citizen scientists!