Attention, teachers and educators!! Swoop down below to the "Learn More" tab to discover successful ways to build birdhouses with your students. Moreover, check out the elementary lesson plans at the bottom of the page in order to build nest boxes and watch live eagle nests on camera with your class!

When you hear birds singing outside your window, you are listening to the echoes of the past – dinosaurs! Paleontologists have unearthed and analyzed dinosaur fossils and bones for two centuries to understand where birds came from. Due to their hard work and research, scientists have found birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, meaning birds are dinosaurs’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great … grandchildren. Do you know why? Dinosaurs and birds have similar skeleton structures and light, hollow bones. Birds also lay eggs and build nests similar to how dinosaurs did 66 million years ago.

 

Why do birds even build nests? When your parents laid you down to sleep at night as baby, they might have put you in a crib. Bird nests are essentially like baby cribs. They are safe spaces for birds to protect their children from weather, predators, or falling from great heights. And it may take Mama and Papa Bird days or weeks to build the nest! The parents must first search for the perfect location that will provide shelter from wind, precipitation, and sun: perhaps high in a tree, under your house’s roof, or in bushes and shady grasses. Then they must build, build, build! In the springtime, you may see birds flying and carrying grass blades or twigs in their mouth. This means they are crafting and weaving a special “crib” for their eggs. Just like a crib, a nest must be sturdy, but also have cushioning – like a mattress. Birds will construct nests with branches while also using soft materials such as lichen, leaves, feathers, and fine grasses. These soft materials will provide insulation to keep the eggs warm as well as flexibility to adjust to growing baby birds. Some birds will even go to great lengths to blend in and hide (or in other words, camouflage) their nest into the surroundings. A tree swallow or Baltimore oriole may use two weeks to build a nest for his/her family! And bird nests vary in all shapes, colors, materials, and sizes – just like how every artist’s painting is uniquely different. Some bird species will weave ornate baskets that sit or hang from tree branches while other birds will nest in tree cavities, on cliff sides, on top of water, within shrubs or even upon a simple depression in the ground.

Once the birds are finished building their special nest, it is time for Mama Bird to lay her eggs. How many eggs can she lay? Well, the clutch – or the number of eggs the female lays – depends upon the species of bird. Tropical birds may only lay two to three eggs while waterfowl can lay up to 15 eggs! Then, the female (and sometimes even the male) will sit … and sit … and sit … on the eggs for weeks until they hatch. Usually, the larger the bird species, the longer it takes the eggs to hatch. The parent bird must be diligent and keep the eggs heated between 99 to 102 degrees Farenheight – that’s as warm as a high fever! When the baby chick is ready to hatch, the chick must work hard to break free of the shell. It can take hours or sometimes even days! They use a hard bump on their beak called an egg tooth to chip through the eggshell.

You may be wondering how long it takes for birds to raise their young. The answer is … it depends! Some birds are born altricial while others are born precocial. Altricial birds, such as songbirds and seabirds, are born into the world blind, featherless, and weak. To grow strong, they greatly depend upon their parents to keep them warm, sheltered, and fed, like how we did as babies. After a month in the nest, the large and feathery hatchlings may stretch their wings and fly from the nest.  Yet, imagine if human babies could walk within hours or days of being born. That is what precocial birds can do! These precocial chicks have feathers and advanced motor and sensory functions when born. Ready to be off the nest, the chicks and parents will journey to brood habitat that is stocked full of yummy insects and grubs for the chicks to eat. However, the time it takes for them to fledge, or fly, may take several months. That’s a long time to avoid predators on the ground without flight. Regardless, once the chick has successfully fledged, the baby chick becomes a “juvenile” and must eventually brave the wide world without their parents.

Breeding and nesting habitats are some of the most critical habitats to birds. Yet, as cities consume and continue to reduce the wild landscape, birds increasingly struggle to find safe spaces to breed, reproduce, and successfully fledge their young. Increases in human settlement may reduce the quality of nesting habitat. More specifically, the spread of human development can:

Yet, organizations and people like you are working actively to reduce and mitigate the impacts of human development. Stretch your wings and watch these two videos like a hawk in order to learn how companies create nesting habitat for great blue herons and osprey. And if you download the lesson guides below, you and your fellow peeps can help bird families find a home by watching birds build nests and then designing your own backyard bird houses for them.

 

Our educational partner, American Transmission Company (ATC), supported the video content above. To learn more about their avian protection program, check out the link below. Also, look out for ATC’s new bird identification field guide! Book copies may be purchased at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Greenbay, Wisconsin.

How do Polar vortexes, climate change, record storms, extreme weather of all kinds play havoc on our ecosystems and all the species that live there? Discover the answers by watching the four parts of this science show and reading the information below. And to take this learning adventure into your classroom, have your teacher download the free Discussion Guide at the bottom of this page so everyone can share in the fun of this inquiry based learning.

While some species thrive, like record hordes of mosquitoes, others like the loons or whooping cranes struggle to raise their broods when assaulted by record hatches of blood-sucking blackflies. Even though species have had to adapt to various stages of climate change such as glacial advances across the Midwest over the past 2.3 million years, it’s little consolation to some species enduring extreme changes each year that affect their chances of survival. And even with our modern technology, us humans must also develop new strategies to confront the challenges of surviving in the face of record snows, rains, and temperature extremes. While considering this fact, imagine what it must have been like historically for Native Americans.

So all this raises the question, “How do the species that live out in the wild survive these extreme conditions?” The answer is all about extreme survival strategies that different species have evolved over tens of thousands of years. Some strategies are similar between species while others are extremely different. To discover how many species use their unique survival strategies, watch the four segments of this exciting episode. You might even learn that you're not supposed to mess with hibernating bears in their den as they can easily wake up and defend themselves. And for gosh sakes, don't run from that bear!

To take this survival strategy learning to a whole new level, have your teacher download the free discussion guide so your entire classroom can participate while learning a few survival tricks from Mother Nature. If you're an elementary or high school student, download the additional lessons we have provided to use with the discussion guide!

Plus, the educational partner noted below supported the video and lesson content here for all of us to learn from. They also offer other learning opportunities on their website. So click on their logo to discover more!

What's one way to hone your hand-eye coordination, sharpen your reflexes and quicken your reaction time? Nope, you don't have to try out for your school football quarterback position. Clay target shooting sports is a realistic option for anyone... even if you're not all that athletic.

So you're probably wondering, how challenging is it? Simply watch this video of two teens who have never handled a shotgun before to see how quickly you can learn with some proper instruction. To discover all the programs across the country where you can discover clay target shooting for yourself, check out the reference links at the bottom of this page.

For instance, the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF link below), is one of the leaders in youth development shooting sports programs. Using a combination of education and athletics, they help the growth and personal development of student athletes throughout the nation through a variety of fun, team-based shooting tournaments. They offer both a Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and a Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP), that offer student athletes from elementary through college age a supportive environment where shooting sports serve as catalysts for teaching life lessons and skills that emphasize positive character traits and citizenship values.

Clay target shooting, which comes in several defined types, can be done almost anywhere… where it’s safe. But before you try any type of clay target shooting, you’ll really need two things: 1) proper safety and gun handling training from a qualified instructor, and 2) you really should also take a certified hunter education course such as hunter-ed.com (see the bottom of this page).

Skeet shooting can either be recreational and/or competitive. Participants, using shotguns try to break clay targets that are mechanically flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed from a variety of angles. Watch the video to get a better idea.

Then there's trap shooting where the clay targets are launched from a single "house" or machine, generally "flying" away from the shooter. Trapshooting was originally developed, in part, to augment bird hunting and to provide a method of practice for bird hunters. But now it's practiced all over the world with a number of varieties, including Olympic trap.

Finally, there's the super-fun Sporting clays. It's full of action and is the closest thing to actual field shooting of all shotgun sports. Rather than having clay birds thrown from standardized distances and angles as with skeet or trap, sporting clays courses are designed to simulate the situations a shooter might encounter when hunting ducks, pheasants, other upland birds, and even rabbits. Since there is no set season and it can be shot at any time, many hunters shoot sporting clays to further their wingshooting skills during the off-season. Targets may be thrown from literally any angle or distance to simulate wingshooting, and six different sizes of clay targets are used to further give the shooter the experience of actual hunting conditions.

To learn more, have your teacher download the lesson activity below, check out the "Learn More" tab and explore the helpful links provided below... and be safe while having fun or earning gold at the Olympics. So enjoy the journey of discovery in all of the content in our America’s Conservation & Hunting Heritage Series funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in partnership with Safari Club International Foundation, a nonprofit org dedicated to promoting wildlife conservation across the country. And even if you don't decide to try the challenge of shooting sports, consider the fact that everyone who participates in these sports helps fund conservation programs that all Americans enjoy.

 

More Lessons and Classroom Videos Coming Soon!

Official Hunter Safety Courses
for Today’s Hunter

Approved by IHEA-USA and your state hunting agency

https://www.hunter-ed.com