Bird Feeder



   Students will design and build a bird feeder, write a report and give a presentation dedicated to a native bird of San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy or the surrounding region. The report and presentation will discuss the birds’ life cycle including breeding habits, diet, migration pattern, song and nesting behaviors. Students identify and describe the niche occupied by their chosen bird and identify other organisms sharing similar niches in the same habitat. 

   Students will distinguish between native and non-native bird species. Students will ascertain the impact of historic bird invasions such as the 1851 introduction of the House or English sparrow (actually a Weaver Finch, not a true sparrow), which has aggressively spread to all parts of the country or the 1890 introduction of the Starling, which has been established in California since 1942.

   Students will design bird feeders to specifically attract their chosen native bird species. There should be an appropriate sized opening. Bird feeders need a simple mechanism to store and dispense seeds and a hook or other attachment to hang outside. Students will monitor the bird feeder for at least 10 minutes each day for a period of one month to determine whether the feeder successfully attracts the desired species. Students will identify and record which birds come to the feeder using a field guide such as ‘Handbook of California birds’ or the Internet.

   Students will ascertain which bird species are competing for the same resources in the local environment, whether these are native or non-native species and which are most successful. Students will answer the question ‘How does the introduction of the feeder alter the local environment?’ and weigh the negative as well as the positive outcomes. Finally students will connect the process and results of this hands-on activity with the latest research and developments in Conservation Biology including refinements to the theory of ‘Island Biogeography’, ‘mesopredator effects’, ‘trophic cascades’ and ‘rewilding’.


Teacher Tips

   You will probably want to build your bird feeder out of wood although other weather resistant material can be used. You should be capable of completing this project easily on your own with a wood saw, hammer and nails or wood glue. So that you know exactly what is required to achieve an ‘A’ grade on your bird feeder and report, a grading rubric is provided below. Your presentation will be based on the material in your report.

Grading Rubric


   •  The bird feeder is functional. 

   •  The bird feeder is carefully designed. 

   •  The report contains an accurate diagram or design of the bird feeder drawn to scale with a ruler or computer draw program and clearly labeled (one page).

   •  Key decisions and discoveries are discussed including what problems where encountered and how they were solved in designing and building the feeder. 

   •  An inventory is included that lists and costs all components used. Total cost is calculated. The weight of the bird feeder is given in both metric and customary units. 

   •  The student demonstrates skill in scientific writing by providing an account of one native bird species (including the birds’ scientific name) which provides specific detail about the birds’ life cycle including breeding habits, diet, migration pattern, song and nesting behaviors. 

   •  Bird feeder monitoring data is provided and analyzed. The student identifies and records which birds come to the feeder. Student attempts to connect findings from their data with the status of the local environment in particular and the field of Conservation Biology in general as discussed above.

   •  A self-assessment is included which summarizes what was learned, honestly discusses the deficiencies and strengths of the project and grades the assignment.

   •  Resources and bibliography: people, books, websites etc are acknowledged.

© Sean Wilmot 2012