Birds and Bird Conservation: Teaching Resources

The Brookline Bird Club is committed to promoting education about birds and bird conservation. The following websites, organizations, and books may be useful to K-12 teachers, in Massachusetts and beyond, who want to stimulate their students to learn about birds, preserve birds and their habitats, and, more generally, enjoy and respect the wonders of nature. This list is ever-growing. If you find a resource to add to this list, please let us know.  We are committed to including all in birding. Thanks!

Web Sites with Resources and Materials for Teachers

  • The Massachusetts Audubon Society aims to “protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife.” The many individual wildlife sanctuaries within Mass Audubon offer a wide variety of bird-oriented programs, classes, events, and camps for children and young birders. The Drumlin Farm sanctuary in Lincoln features an extensive Youth Birding program, K-8 environmental education programs, and a community preschool to introduce young children to birds and other wildlife. The Ipswich River sanctuary in Topsfield features summer “Nature Day” camps, “Sense of Wonder Walks” for children, and curriculum and professional development for teachers. The Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport offers a bird-banding program, a “natural classroom” on Plum Island, an “introduction to birds” field trip, and workshops for teachers. Check the Mass Audubon web site for programs and events at other sanctuaries throughout Massachusetts.
  • The National Audubon Society offers an environmental education program, “Audubon Adventures,” developed for teachers and students in grades 3-5 and designed to meet Common Core Language Arts and Next Generation Science Standards while following the guidelines of the North American Association for Environmental Education. The Education section of the website includes an after-school activities guide, information on Audubon summer camps for children (with scholarships available from Wild Birds Unlimited), a “Just for Kids” page with activities about birds and other animals, Tips for Bringing Nature to the Classroom, and Tips for Teaching Outdoors. National Audubon also offers an intensive 6-day program of bird study for teens at Hog Island in Maine.
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a unit of Cornell University, provides materials to “advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.” The Lab offers workshops for teachers and a Home Study Course in Bird Biology. Its Macaulay Library sound and video archive includes more than 175,000 audio and 60,000 video recordings of birds and other animals. K-12 educational programs include: (1) Bird Sleuth: Students observe birds, conduct investigations, and can publish their research in Classroom BirdScope. (2) Crossing Boundaries: Students learn science and explore career possibilities through “technology-enhanced exploration of biodiversity conservation issues.” (3) Celebrate Urban Birds: Students and community organizations observe birds and file reports to assess the value of green spaces for birds.
  • Environment for the Americas is a non-profit organization that “provides information and materials about birds, bird conservation, and bird education from Canada to South America.” Their signature program is the International Migratory Bird Day. Educational resources include a database of bird-related teaching materials, a 4-day training course called Connecting People with Nature through Birds, virtual field trips, a Bird IQ test, a video on “Birding Basics for Kids,” and an online forum for educators.
  • The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) is a vibrant community of 40,000 science educators and professionals committed to best practices in teaching science and its impact on student learning. NSTA offers high quality science resources and continuous learning so that science educators grow professionally and excel in their career. For new and experienced teachers alike, the NSTA community offers the opportunity to network with like-minded peers at the national level, connect with mentors and leading researchers, and learn from the best in the field.
  • The American Birding Association “provides leadership to birders by increasing their knowledge, skills, and enjoyment of birding.” Its Young Birders programs include camps for teen birders, scholarships for birding camps and other events, an ABA Tropicbirds youth birding team that participates in “big day” competitions, and opportunities to participate in conservation projects such as Birder’s Exchange.
  • The Fledging Birders Institute aims to bring the “joy and benefits of birding to our youth” in order to “promote their healthy development and bird conservation.” Its programs include field trips for young birders, a Winter Bird Count for Kids, and the Schoolyard Birding Challenge. It also offers strategies for teachers “to bring birding into your class without compromising curriculum.”
  • Project Wild, a wildlife-focused conservation education program for K-12 educators and their students, provides professional teaching training and curriculum materials to develop student knowledge of birds and other wildlife and to promote responsible behavior and constructive action to preserve wildlife and the environment.
  • Boston Schoolyard Initiative is a collaborative effort to transform Boston’s schoolyards and bring science and nature study outdoors. Its website includes design guides for outdoor classrooms and “Science in the Schoolyard” teaching resources.
  • The Gloucester-based Kestrel Educational Adventures aims to inspire “the protection of local natural habitats and a love for nature in young people through creative and playful environmental education.” Its field programs include the study of bird habitats and migration within the context of local ecology, and it publishes “Exploring Natural Connections,” a book and CD “featuring unique games and activities for educators.” In collaboration with the Cuvilly Arts & Earth Center of Ipswich, it offers a summer field study program for 4th-7th graders.
  • The Urban Bird Sounds Project features “An Audio Guide to Urban Birds” written and narrated by students from the Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The web site provides free downloads of the audio guide along with teaching materials and handouts, as well as links to other bird education resources.
  • The Student Conservation Association “provides college and high school-aged members with hands-on conservation service opportunities.” It facilitates internships and conservation crews across the country to “improve and conserve wildlife habitat.” Though not focused exclusively on birds, the Association’s internships include bird-oriented activities such as a shorebird conservation project on the Cape Cod National Seashore.
  • David Williams, a 6th grade science teacher (now retired) and a director on the Brookline Bird Club board, developed this blog to “bring my science classroom into the student’s home” and to provide information about subjects, including birds, his students study in class. The blog illustrates how one teacher incorporates birds and bird conservation into a science curriculum.
  • This article from The Birding Wire site explains how K-12 students can download, for free, the new version 7.7 of Thayer’s Birds of North America – birding software, for Windows or Mac computers, which features the 1,007 birds that have been seen in the continental United States and Canada, with 6,600 color photos, 1,500 songs and calls, 550 video clips of birds in action, and 700 quizzes. To download the software for free, students can use the Special Code: BirdingWireYoungBirder.

Bird Books for Kids

  1. Alderfer, Jonathan. National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2013. Ages 10-14. Basic facts, identification tips, and illustrations for 100 species of common North American birds.

  2. Boring, Mel. Birds, Nests & Eggs. NorthWord Books for Young Readers, Ages 4-Illustrated, with hands-on projects, this book is part of a series designed to help children identity different animal species.

  3. Burgess, Thornton. The Burgess Bird Book for Children. Forgotten Books paperback reprint, In this classic by a renowned naturalist, originally published in 1919, Peter Rabbit visits various habitats to discover and learn about birds.

  4. Burnie, David. Bird. DK Eyewitness Book, Ages 9-Bird contains an overview of bird biology, habitats, families, and representative species, along with photographs and a CD featuring songs of 60 species from around the world.

  5. Choiniere, Joseph and Claire Mowbray Golding. What’s That Bird? Getting to Know the Birds around You, Coast to Coast. Storey Publishing paperback, Ages 9-Aimed at beginning birders, this book profiles 30 common North American species, with reference charts and color photographs and illustrations.

  6. Evert, Laura and Wayne Lynch. Birds of Prey: Explore the Fascinating Worlds of Eagles, Falcons, Owls, Vultures. NorthWord, An illustrated guide from the Our Wild World Series.

  7. George, Jean Craighead. Luck. Harper Collins, Ages 4-After being rescued by a young girl from Texas, a Sandhill Crane begins its long migration to Siberia.  Illustrated by Wendell Minor.  Also recommended by George: Summer of the Falcon, a Harper Trophy paperback, 1979, for ages 9-12.

  8. George, Lindsay Barrett. In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? Greenwillow Books paperback, Preschool.  Two children explore the autumn woods and discover its creatures in this illustrated book for preschoolers.

  9. Guttman, Burton. Finding Your Wings: A Workbook for Beginning Bird Watchers. Houghton Mifflin, Part of the Peterson Field Guide Series, this workbook contains exercises, quizzes, illustrations, and room for writing and sketching.

  10. Harrison, George and Kit Harrison. Backyard Bird Watching for Kids. Willow Creek Press, Ages 9-This illustrated book for beginners profiles 20 common backyard birds and offers tips on how to attract them.

  11. Hiaasen, Carl. Hoot. Yearling paperback, Ages 9-In this comic tale (and Newberry Award winner) by detective writer Hiassen, middle-school children battle the system to save Burrowing Owls in Florida.

  12. Hoose, Phillip. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, Young Adult.  An illustrated history of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and the American conservation movement.

  13. Keiser, Francis. The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird Is Born. Sagoponack Books, Ages 4-The first in a series of illustrated stories in rhyme about the life of a pelican and the need to protect its environment.

  14. Laubach, Christyna, Rene Laubach and Charles Smith. Raptor! A Kid’s Guide to Birds of Prey. Storey Publishing paperback, Ages 9-An illustrated overview of North American raptors, with range maps, a glossary, and extensive resources for further study.

  15. Malnor, Carol and Sandy Fuller. The Blues Go Extreme Birding. Dawn Publishers, Ages 4-8. In this most recent volume of an illustrated series, 5 bird-crazy bluebirds are about to enter the Bird X-Games.

  16. McGehee, Claudia. Where Do Birds Live? University of Iowa Press, Ages 4-An illustrated guide to 14 representative habitats and the signature species of each habitat.

  17. Mowat, Farley. Owls in the Family. McClelland and Stewart paperback, 1970 (School Edition with Study Aids).  Two cantankerous owls disrupt a young boy’s pet menagerie in this classic children’s story.  Also recommended for teens and adults: Never Cry Wolf, Mowat’s autobiographical story about living with Arctic wolves.

  18. Norman, Howard. Between Heaven and Earth: Bird Tales from around the World. Harcourt Children’s Books, Ages 9-An illustrated collection of international myths and folk tales.

  19. Osborne, Elinor. Project Ultraswan. Sandpiper paperback, Ages 9-From the Scientists in the Field Series, the story of the Trumpeter Swan Migration Project, with maps and illustrations.

  20. Prosek, James. Bird, Butterfly, Eel. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Ages 4-A story of three species migrating from a New England farm, with illustrations, maps, and author’s notes.

  21. Rossiter, Nan Parson. The Fo’c’sle: Henry Beston’s Outermost House. David Godine, 2012. Ages 8 and up.  An illustrated story of Beston’s The Outermost House, classic nature writing about his year alone in a cottage on Cape Cod.

  22. Thompson, Bill. The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin paperback, Ages 9-A Peterson Field Guide, illustrated by Julie Zickefoose and aimed at beginning birders.

  23. Williams, Mo. There Is a Bird on your Head! Hyperion Book, Ages 4-A humorous introduction to birds from the Elephant and Piggie series, written and illustrated by a three-time Caldecott Honor winner.

  24. Wood, Audrey. Birdsong. Sandpiper paperback, Ages 4-An introduction to bird songs and habitats, illustrated by Robert Florczak.

A Selection of Books about Birds

  1. Attenborough, David. The Life of Birds. Princeton University Press, 1998.  An illustrated exploration of birds around the world, from prehistoric times to the present—a companion to the PBS series of the same name.  Also available in paperback.
  2. Cokinos, Christopher. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds. Tarcher paperback reprint, 2009.  A history, meditation and cautionary tale about extinct North American bird species—the title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem.
  3. Dunne, Pete. Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.  For the serious birder, a species-by-species (non-illustrated) guide to identification of North American birds through a “holistic method” that considers subjective impressions as well as field marks and behavior.
  4. Ehrlich, Paul, David Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye. The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. Fireside paperback, 1988.  A species-by-species reference book with facts about feeding, mating, and nesting behavior and short essays on specialized topics such as mimicry and parasitism.
  5. Elphick, Jonathan. The Art of Ornithology. Rizzoli International reprint, 2008.  A beautifully illustrated history of international bird art—realistic, decorative, and fanciful—throughout the ages.
  6. Gibson, Graeme. The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany. Bloomsbury, 2005. An international and historical anthology of narratives, poems, and essays about birds and their relationships with humans.
  7. Hay, John, ed. The Great House of Birds: Classic Writings about Birds. Sierra Club Books, 1996.  Edited by a preeminent New England naturalist, an anthology that encompasses natural history, myth, and poetry in an appreciation of birds.
  8. Heinrich, Bernd. Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds. Ecco paperback reprint, 2002.  A captivating study of bird intelligence and adaptation—part scientific analysis, part personal narrative.
  9. Hill, Jen, ed. An Exhilaration of Wings: The Literature of Birdwatching. Penguin paperback, 2001.  An anthology of bird observations from both amateur naturalists and famous ornithologists.
  10. Kaufman, Kenn. Birds of North America (Kaufman Focus Guides). Houghton Mifflin paperback, 2000.  A species-by-species field guide, organized by bird family groupings, with digitally enhanced photographs.  Also available in Spanish as Guia de Campo Kaufman: a las Aves de Norteamerica.  Kaufman is perhaps best known for Kingbird Highway, his often comic personal account of bird-chasing adventures as a 19-year-old on the road.
  11. Kroodsma, Donald. The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong. Houghton Mifflin paperback, 2007.   A personalized scientific study of the uniqueness, function, and evolution of birdsong, accompanied by a CD of bird songs and illustrated “sonograms” that depict songs graphically.
  12. Krutch, Joseph Wood and Paul Eriksson, eds. A Treasury of Birdlore.  Doubleday, 1962.  A historical anthology of bird observations from amateur naturalists and the pioneers of ornithology.
  13.  Leahy, Christopher. The Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife. Princeton University Press, 2004.  Written by Gloucester resident and Mass Audubon field ornithologist Chris Leahy, this comprehensive A-Z reference work ranges from ornithological terminology to b