Birding on Your School Campus

Identifying birds can seem daunting, so BioSITE staff have gathered resources you can use with your students to learn how to identify birds, do scientific investigations, and citizen science projects.


Guide to the most common schoolyard birds of the San Jose area:


Download Guide


Local Resources


Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society

The local branch of the Audubon Society is a great resource for local bird activities and information focused on the birds in our area!

Teacher Resources: They offer a variety of lesson plans, games, and activities to guide teachers in exploring habitats and nature with students, all with a local focus, as well as links to other local environmentally-focused organizations.


Wildlife Education Day: Held every fall, this festival features a bird walk along with several presenters and activities. They also hold a logo contest to which students can submit nature-themed art work.


Spring Birdathon: More suitable for older students, this event allows students to gather pledges and fundraise for the organization in exchange for bird watching activities.


Cavity Nesters Recovery Program: This nest-monitoring program focuses on locally important and threatened species, how to attract them to nest boxes, and tips for monitoring their progress. Installing a nest box would be a great class or service project for students from upper Elementary age and up!



Celebrate Urban Birds

This website, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, encourages young students to get excited about the birds in their own environments through various paths of involvement: creating art, submitting data and observations, growing bird-friendly gardens, participating in themed contests, and joining celebratory bird-focused events.


Bird Sleuth

This website, also sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is dedicated to getting K-12 students interested in birds through outdoor and online learning as well as citizen science. It has a variety of free resources for teachers, in addition to kits for purchase, with lessons focusing on birds and also ones using birds to explore math and science concepts.


Flying WILD

Geared toward middle school students, this resource includes workshops and guides for teachers to help students learn more about migratory birds and plan a festival to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.



Monitoring Projects


Project FeederWatch

This website, also sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, educates citizens on common feeder-bird species and then asks them to participate in a 21-week (from November to April) observation period, noting the species and density that visit their feeder and reporting the data online. Even without participating in their reporting program, installing and monitoring a feeder is a fun way to explore the world of birds!


Nest Watch

This website, also sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, educates citizens on nest-monitoring methods, and then asks them to observe one or more nests every 3-4 days, taking notes on the success and reporting the data online.


The Great Backyard Bird Count

This annual event has bird counting participants from more than 100 countries submit data sheets on over 15 million observed birds every year in the late winter!



Short Term Projects


Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Simply create an account, and then tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least fifteen minutes on any day of the count (this year’s was February 12-15). This project would require some advance preparation so that students are able to ID the birds they count.


Go on a bird tour!

Explore your school campus or schedule an excursion to a nearby park. Students can go on a habitat scavenger hunt, create a sound map, and test bird ID skills using the Bird Sleuth Explorer’s Guidebook, available for free download here. These activities focus on observation and communication using descriptive language and different senses. Learn who’s living on campus by observing and describing physical descriptions, locations, sounds, and behaviors.


Create Bird Art!

Combine art and science by exploring and portraying bird adaptations. CDM’s kit “Adaptations and Ecosystems,” available for check-out, also helps explore how birds adapt to different environments with cross-disciplinary, hands-on activities.



Long-term Projects


Curriculum Kits from Bird Sleuth!

While some of these kits do have a cost, they offer a complete plan of study, including materials and a teacher’s guide, for a series of inquiry-based lessons. You only need a computer and some bird field guides (remember that you can check out a classroom set of bird guides from BioSITE!). Two good examples are “Most Wanted Birds” and “Investigating Evidence,” which is temporarily available free of charge!


CUBs Data Study

  • Students observe the school yard and choose one of the species that visits to study further.
  • Students research the bird and create a poster detailing its physical and behavioral characteristics, focusing on survival and fitness adaptations.
  • Students dedicate 10 minutes, twice a week, to watching in a specific area of the school and counting how many times they see their bird. This information can be graphed onto their poster.

    Learn about their sixteen focal species



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