In primary grades children gladly follow where the teacher leads, thus giving her the blessed privilege of establishing a living sympathy with all God’s creatures. Bird life is wonderfully interesting and our feathered friends at all times and seasons are challenging young and old to discover their secrets. The children should be encouraged to make friends with the birds, to watch their graceful movements, and listen to their songs. Teach the children about the different bird families and the characteristics of each.
Picture the life of these beautiful little creatures, the time they spend collecting material for the nest, the ingenuity exhibited in building, care of the little bird family, bravery in defending the nest against enemies, and their joy when the young birds are ready to fly.
If the teacher is interested and enthusiastic, the pupils will catch her spirit and surprise her by their discoveries. In order that children may have the privilege of observing the birds daily, ears of corn, small boxes or sheaves of grain should be fastened to the trees near the school or home, and a dish of fresh water kept in a convenient spot where the birds may drink and bathe.
Tell interesting stories and incidents of bird life.
Long, long ago, when Mother Nature gave the birds their plumage, the thrush came last and the attractive colours were all gone; the oriole had selected the orange; the canary, the yellow; the bluebird had chosen the blue; the tanager, the red, and the humming-birds and doves had monopolised the rainbow colours. The thrush looked admiringly at her friends and said, “Never mind, dear Mother, a plain brown dress is good enough for me, but give me a sweet voice, so that I can make the children happy.”
Tell them about the polite bird (cedar-wax-wing) with the high head-dress, and the beautiful little points like red sealing- wax on the wings. A flock will often perch on the bare branches, stroke each other’s plumage, bow, twitter, and pass choice morsels of food back and forth again and again before any one of the number can be persuaded to eat it.
In the lower grades the living bird should be studied out of doors, and six or eight birds known and loved as a result of the first year’s study may be considered good work. Ask questions that cannot be answered except by observing the birds.
What birds walk?
What birds hop?
What bird has a red patch on its head?
Name birds that are black or nearly so.
What time of the day do the birds begin to sing? How many have heard birds singing in the rain?
Do they sing at night?
What have you seen birds eating?
Where do they sleep at night?
How many have fed birds in the winter time?
What birds tell us their names? Bobwhite, whippoorwill, chickadee, bobolink, pee- wee, and others.
Let children try to imagine the wonderful sights witnessed by the birds as they fly over land and sea. Children should be requested to report their observations from time to time. They will have many questions to ask about the birds as soon as they become really interested.
Where do the birds go in autumn? They go south where the flowers are in bloom, when we have snow and cold weather.
Why do they go? In search of food. In their new home they find the same kind of food that they had here all summer. Some birds eat vegetable food, some, animal, while others prefer a mixed diet. The locality is determined by the abundance of food suited to their nature.
Will all the birds leave us? The blue jay, English sparrow, brown creeper, and several other birds remain with us all the year round. Some birds, as the chickadees, winter-wrens, tree sparrows, Bohemian wax-wings, come here from colder regions of the north to make us a visit during the winter. Some members of the great bird family are going or coming nearly all the time.
Which birds go first? Those whose food consists mostly of insects. The swifts and swallows go in August or early September. Humming-birds also go early. Robins eat animal and vegetable food and occasionally remain until we have snow.
Do they go singly or in flocks? Many birds congregate in flocks before they start, as the swallows, bobolinks, king birds, robins, and others.
What do the birds eat that remain here all winter? They find grubs hidden under the bark of trees, and seeds on the grasses above the snow.
Do they fly very high? Those that fly at night generally do, unless prevented by fogs. Can birds fly very fast? Many birds fly a mile a minute and. If the wind is favourable, they are able to continue at that rate hour after hour. Swifts have been known to travel two hundred miles an hour. Wild geese travel from twelve to fifteen hundred miles a day. It is claimed that the tiny flame- breasted humming-bird builds its nest as far north as Alaska and winters in Lower California and Mexico, travelling a distance of over two thousand miles twice a year.
Why can some birds fly faster than others? The wings of birds that have very long journeys to take are long, pointed, and very strong, while the wings of those that fly only short distances are generally short, rounded and weak. Wild geese, ducks, and swans are first-class flyer's as well as swimmers. The migration of a flock of geese is an interesting sight. A leader flies ahead at the point where the two lines of birds meet, and when he decides to change his position, a neighbour takes his place and the flock keeps in perfect order while the leaders are changing. They fly thousands of miles to build their nests in summer in northern regions.
Do the birds lose their way? Sometimes during storms it is supposed that they are not able to recognise the land marks,— rivers, coast lines, and mountains, and they often fly against high buildings, towers, or electric wires and thus meet their death. The eyes of birds magnify objects and enable them to see their land-marks when the weather is clear.
How do the young birds know where to go the first year? Bird lovers tell us that they are guided by the calls of the old birds the first year, and the next year they act as guides for other birds.
Do birds wear the same plumage all the year? Their feathers get worn by storms and by brushing against the branches of trees and they drop out one by one and are replaced by new ones. The tips of the smaller feathers give the bird its colour; the breast feathers of a bluebird, for instance, are reddish only at the tips and for this reason birds often present a very different appearance during the year. Many birds are provided with more than one new suit a year.
Is the bird’s body warmer than ours? The temperature of the human body is 98 degrees; that of a bird from 104 to 108 degrees.
Why is it warmer? The rapid movements of the birds through the air increases the circulation of the blood, making it warmer than that of any other animal, and the small, downy feathers covering the bird’s body, prevent the heat from escaping.
How is the bird’s body adapted for flight? The bird’s plumage is very light; that of a large owl is said not to weigh two ounces. The shape of the body and the arrangement of the feathers (directed backwards) aid the bird in flying. The hollow bones and quill feathers are filled with air, and the air sacs extending through the body, even through the bones, are connected with the lungs. The light feathers, the expansion of the warm air and the strength of the tail and wing feathers enable the bird to move through the air with a graceful, gilding motion.
Have birds many enemies? Yes, they have all sorts of enemies. Rats, squirrels, cats, weasels and snakes destroy a great number of eggs and young birds. Hawks, owls, crows, bluejays, shrikes, and several other birds prey upon their neighbours, and man, too, must be regarded as perhaps their worst enemy.
Do all birds build nests? The chick-a-dees, nut-hatches, brown creepers and others are satisfied with a second-hand nest. Some birds repair last year’s nest, as the owl, wren, and bluebird, The caw-bird lays its eggs in the nest of other birds; when the warblers find a strange egg in their nest they often build a new nest above the old one.