Have you heard of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)? It’s a citizen science event that’s fun, free, and easy to do! It’s sponsored by the National Audubon Society. It is held for 4 days in mid-February each year. We are using this wonderful citizen science project as a launching point for a Backyard Bird Study.
GBBC is an annual event for people of all ages in which you spend at least 15 minutes a day for 4 days bird watching in your backyard or wherever else you happen to be. (You can find the dates for each year on the GBBC website.)
The goal is to gain a better understanding of bird populations throughout North America. As you see different birds, keep track of how many of each one you see. Then you report the area where you were bird watching, the kinds of birds you saw, and the number of each kind of bird that you recorded. Of course, young children will need help from a parent or older sibling, so this is a terrific way to get the whole family involved in your homeschool!
Why Count Birds?
- It’s a great way to spend some time with your kids doing something educational that you can all enjoy together.
- It’s a fun way to help kids and teens get more interested in science and nature.
- It’s a way of giving back to the community. All of the information collected helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about birds in different areas, how well those birds are faring, and how to help protect them and the environment.
- It’s a wonderful way of sneaking in a little bit of geography and graphing without your children suspecting anything! On the GBBC website during and after the count, participants will be able to explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting/have reported.
Information About How to Participate
You can use the How to Participate section of the website to find out the details you need if you want to officially participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It includes step-by-step instructions, information about a bird ID app you may want to use, a printable checklist of birds, etc.
If you want to use this as an opportunity to use a bar graph with your children or teens, you can add your bird count information to our free printable bar graph (pictured above) to compare the numbers of different kinds of birds. We suggest printing out several copies so you’ll have extras on hand if you need them. (If you have friends who are interested in participating, please share the link to this article and have them print their own. Thank you!)
Learn How to Identify Birds
We love to use opportunities like this as launching pads for deeper studies. Even if it’s not the right time of year to officially participate in the GBBC, you can do your own bird count! Then use it as a jumping-off point for a deeper study! Our go-to resource for science curriculum is always Apologia, so it is no surprise that we love using their Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day as the spine for this study.
Since this textbook is packed full of hands-on exploration, it is the perfect complement to the bird count. This textbook actually covers characteristics that you will need to use in order to identify the birds for the bird count! So this will help all of us learn about birds’ physical characteristics, nesting habits, flight patterns, and more. All of these are the things that help us determine the names of the birds. This textbook also teaches us how to attract birds to our own yards, so it is a PERFECT study leading up to the GBBC or any time!
Bird Notebook Pages
We have our own resource for studying birds too! These beautiful Bird Notebook Pages! These pages are great for a fun and easy study, and they’re ready for you to print and use. (You’re free to make as many copies as you need for use with your own family.) You can use these pages to record the taxonomy of the birds you observe as well as other information that you can easily find such as habitat, mating habits, diet, and behavior. And you’ll love that the pages are black and white with minimal color added so that printing is more affordable!
More Ideas for Using Our Bird Notebook Pages
- Use them as a stand-alone resource for your own study of birds.
- They are also a great supplement for use along with Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.
- Use what you’ve learned about birds to write bird stories on the lined pages (included).
- Make your own backyard notebooking nature journal featuring birds in your area.
- Choose one common bird in your area, copy that page several times, and create your own booklet about that species.
- Use these pages to create a report. Make a presentation board to go along with it, and give an oral report.
- As you study the states, use these pages to study each state bird.
- Do a fun bird unit based on a book, song, or movie! For example, do a study of penguins as you read Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Take Some Pictures
It’s certainly not required, but if you like, you can submit photos to the GBBC site of the birds you see or of your family birding. So be sure to get some great pictures of your children counting birds, of the birds themselves, the birds’ behavior, birds in their habitats, your tally sheets, and of your notebook pages–anything to document your study and submit to GBBC.
And since you have pictures, you might as well share them on Facebook and Instagram to inspire others to join the count, right? We absolutely love seeing how others are homeschooling! In order to be able to find each other, let’s use a hashtag on this citizen science project. You’ll want to use their hashtag #greatbackyardbirdcount, but also use ours #365homeschool and #hiphomeschoolmoms so we can tell which ones are homeschoolers. Our #365homeschool project is a year-long peek inside homeschools, and it now has over 25,000 images shared!
Create a Backyard Birds Nature Journal
Keeping a nature journal is a perfect project to go along with birding! Whether you enjoy birding just for fun or whether you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, there are lots of great reasons to keep a nature journal as part of your homeschool studies (or even for adults)! If you decide to give nature journaling a try, we suggest using these gorgeous nature journals by Jeannie Fulbright. (The same Jeannie Fulbright who wrote the Apologia elementary science Exploring Creation series.)
We sincerely hope you decide to do your own bird study either as part of the GBBC or on your own! If you do, please leave us a comment and tell us about it! We love to hear from you!