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A Teacher's Guide

Birds of North America

For Discussion

  1. What birds are common in your community, state, and region? Which of them are you familiar with?

  2. What threats to birds and their habitats exist in your community, state, and region? How might those threats be removed or alleviated? Why might it be important to protect bird species and their habitats?

  3. The standard method of bird classification follows the Linnaean system, based upon genera and species. Kaufman's arrangement — as displayed in the Pictorial Table of Contents on pages 2–5 — groups similar kinds of birds for comparison. What other methods of classification might be appropriate for the birds found in your neighborhood, state, and region?

  4. What behavior of birds common to your neighborhood or area are familiar to you? What behavior is new or puzzling? How might we best interpret and understand the behavior of birds?

  5. How can you use the range maps in Birds of North America to determine which birds are most likely to be seen in your community, state, and region?


  1. Select a threatened or endangered bird in North America. (Lists are available from county or state agencies and at http://endangered.fws.gov/.) Prepare a report on the threats to the species, its present status, and actions being taken to protect it.

  2. Write a poem, story, or essay about your favorite bird.

  3. Print out the checklist of birds for your state (from www.birder.com/birding/index.html), and use the list as the basis for maintaining a personal observation notebook.

  4. Select a migrating bird species, map out that species' migration route, and list the countries, states, and/or provinces that the route crosses. Collate all the maps and reports to determine the number of countries, states, and/or provinces crossed by each species. Make enough copies of maps and lists so that each student has a complete set.

  5. Looking through Birds of America, find a bird in your state or region that you would like to see in the wild. On the basis of the range maps, text, and illustrations, where would you go to see that bird, what habitat would you search, and what would you expect the bird to be doing when you found it? How would you recognize it and distinguish it from other bird species?


  1. Place several bird feeders outside your classroom windows. Stock each with a different kind of bird seed. Maintain a daily log of species, including the number of birds observed and the frequency of visits at each feeder. Which seed attracts which species of birds? (Find instructions for making simple bird feeders at http://ology.amnh.org/biodiversity/stufftodo/feedbirds.html.)

  2. Using Birds of North America as a guide, make a chart of the species most common to your area or region and post it in a convenient location. Check off each species observed, note the date(s) and time(s) of day, briefly describe the weather, and initial it. Next to the chart, post a brief description and a picture of each species observed.

  3. Invite an experienced bird watcher to share her or his expertise and knowledge with the class.

  4. Visit a nearby nature reserve, park, or other habitat, preferably with an official guide or member of a local bird club. Take along local bird checklists (usually available from local agencies and bird clubs). Maintain notebooks throughout the visit — recording observations, information received, and any special circumstances — and be prepared to discuss your observations in class.

  5. Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (visit www.birdsource.org/gbbc/index.html) by counting the birds you observed in your backyard and submitting the counts by the appropriate date.

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