Science Fair Project Inspired by Bird Banding Field Trip!

5th-grader Ana Saenz’s science fair project was inspired by Bandelier National Monument’s bird banding efforts!

Bandelier National Monument and PEEC have been partnering for almost 20 years to bring students on a field trip to a scientific bird-banding site at Bandelier. This year, because of the pandemic, we had to bring bird banding to the students via a virtual field trip experience.

In both the virtual and in-person bird-banding programs, students gain insight into the processes of field science and learn about a key method of collecting data for understanding our local and migratory bird populations.

This year, 5th-grader Ana Saenz took things a step further by analyzing a subset of Bandelier’s bird-banding data for her science fair project:

Read more Science Fair Project Inspired by Bird Banding Field Trip!

Birds in Your Community Scavenger Hunt

Birds at a feeder at the Los Alamos Nature Center. (Photo by Bob Walker)

Go outside and get to know the birds in your neighborhood! Can you find:

A Steller’s Jay eats a peanut. (Photo by Bob Walker)

Birds eating, drinking, and taking shelter

  • A bird eating seeds
  • A bird eating insects or worms
  • A bird drinking water
  • A bird hiding in a tree or a bush

A habitat has food, water, shelter, and space for animals. You can help create bird habitat near your house by providing a dish of water, or planting flowers with seeds that birds can eat.

Birds interacting with people

  • A bird near your house
  • A bird using man-made features (eating from a garden, resting on a telephone wire, drinking from a bird bath, etc.)
  • A bird helping you (pollinating flowers, eating insect pests, etc.)
  • A cultural representation of a bird (painting, sign, petroglyph, constellation, etc.)
Brown-headed Cowbirds enjoy water from the White Rock Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Photo by Bob Walker)

Birds can be helped and harmed by human behavior. Cats and window strikes kill lots of birds every year. You can help by keeping your cats inside, and by placing stickers or hanging strings on the outside of your windows to block reflections.

Birds of the Season

Watch for these birds running or hopping along the ground, looking for insects and worms. (Photo by Bob Walker)

These tiny, quick birds can be seen hovering near flowers or feeders. (Photo by Deborah Halter)

These thick-beaked birds tend to be seen in flocks. They often visit seed feeders. (Photo by Bob Walker)

Look for a flash of yellow hopping from branch to branch, as this bird looks for insects. (Photo by Bob Walker)

Some birds live in your neighborhood year-round, and others migrate, or move from place to place with the seasons. As the season advances, keep looking for these birds. Which birds seem to stick around, and which ones do you see more or less as the seasons change? Some of our birds spend their winters in Mexico or Central America and return to breed in summer, some winter here and fly north to breed, and some use our area as a rest stop during the migration season on their way further north or south!

Tell us what birds you saw in your neighborhood by sending us an email to takeitoutside@peecnature.org! Ready for more? Try looking for the 20 most common birds of Los Alamos! If you see a bird outside, PEEC’s bird guide can help you identify it.

Build and Band a Bird!

Part 1: Build Your Bird

Our apple bird is stuck together with matchsticks and has band #2048.

You’ll need:

  • 1 fruit or vegetable
  • 2 sticks/forks
  • Other items to decorate your bird
  • A strip of paper, scissors, and tape

Directions:

  1. Start with a fruit or vegetable of your choice. You can also use a ball of mud.
  2. Insert two sticks, forks, or other objects to be the legs.
  3. Attach a head, wings, and a tail to your bird. Be creative!
  4. Cut a strip of paper to fit around the bird’s leg. Write a number on the band and tape it around a leg.

Part 2: Make a Simple Balance Scale

Try counterbalancing your bird with pennies or other small objects!

You’ll need:

  • A clothes hanger with notches
  • 2 recycled containers of similar size
  • A hole punch or something sharp
  • String and scissors
  • Small objects: pennies, dried beans, pebbles, etc.

Directions:

  1. Use the hole punch to make holes on either side of the recycled containers, or ask an adult to help you use something sharp to poke holes.
  2. Cut two equal lengths of string, and tie them through the holes. Allow enough string for a nice handle.
  3. Hang the containers on either side of the clothes hanger, and hang the balance scale from a doorknob or another bar or hook in your home.
  4. Place your bird gently in one of the buckets. What happens? Try to balance it by putting small objects in the other bucket! How many pennies/beans/pebbles does it take to balance your bird?

Challenge: Find the Mass of Your Bird in Grams!

Our bird has a mass of about 250 grams, the same as 250 ml of water or 100 pennies!

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Measuring cup

Directions:

  1. Place your bird gently in one of the buckets. Slowly pour water into the other bucket until it exactly balances your bird.
  2. Pour the water into a measuring cup and read off the volume in milliliters (ml). Because each milliliter of water has a mass of 1 gram, this volume reading equals the mass of your bird in grams!
  3. Report your data on our online bird banding data sheet! See how the mass of your bird compares to other people’s birds, and to real birds in the wild! Report your data using the form below, then click here to see everyone’s results!

We’d love to see pictures of your birds! Please send them to educator@peecnature.org.

Did you know …

An average Wilson’s Warbler has a mass of about 8 grams, about the same as three pennies! How many Wilson’s Warblers would it take to balance the bird you made? Read more here about the adaptations that allow birds to fly.

Virtual Field Trip: Bird Banding

A student releases a bird after banding during a field trip at Bandelier National Monument. (Photo by Rachel Landman)

Bird banding is a scientific method for collecting information about bird populations. Whether you’re a student or a bird enthusiast, join us on a virtual field trip to find out more about bird banding! If you’re a teacher, please contact us at educator@peecnature.org to let us know if you’re using this content in your classroom. Enhanced content may be available for teachers.

Click the links below to take a virtual bird banding field trip!

1) Watch this video:

Learn more about bird banding in Bandelier National Monument in this video by bird banding intern Zoë Moffett.

Texto del video en español

2) Hands-on activity: Build and band a bird (Versión en español)

3) Outdoor activity: Birds in your community scavenger hunt (Versión en español)

Share your experience with us! Email us at educator@peecnature.org to share your pictures and stories. You can rate our field trip using our evaluation form.