Want your classroom to take part in this year’s Garden Bird Survey?
This page contains everything you need to get your students engaged in science and nature, and become citizen scientists for the day.
Why take part?
- Because it’s a fun activity!
- It can easily be built into the curriculum (e.g. animal classification, population studies, hypothesis testing, data gathering, data analysis, report writing)
- It introduces the concept and practice of carrying out simple surveys, which are important for scientific inquiry and a basic tool of conservation (you can’t look after wildlife properly unless you know what’s there and how much of it there is)
- It conveys positive messages about caring for the environment, knowing and protecting what’s there
- It can be a simple one-off activity or a catalyst for many environmental activities and projects
- It can contribute to badge work (e.g. Science Badge, Duke of Edinburgh award, Science Fair) and there is also a DOC Kiwi Guardian medal available for completing the survey
Understanding bird sizes and habitats
How big is that bird? The Chocolate Fish Index.
Where do birds feed? Gardens are like layer cakes.
Materials and equipment
- Tally sheet
- Pen or pencil
- A clock, watch, or timer
- A bird identification guide
- Binoculars are helpful but not essential
Resources – Te Reo Māori
Before the survey, encourage children to learn to identify the different birds they see. Children could also make their own identification guides.
How long will it take?
The survey lasts one hour. If one hour is too long for your class period, it can be split into two half-hour spells, or three 20-minute spells, or four quarter-hour spells.
Children can work together in small groups. Different roles within the group can include a bird spotter, bird counter, bird identifier and results recorder.
Where to do the survey
Birds can be counted from inside or outside the classroom. Inside is like being in a bird hide; the birds can’t see you and continue to behave naturally. The children can stand or sit at a desk near a window, perhaps with drink bottles and something to eat, and watch birds through the window.
If outside, they need to be careful not to frighten birds away from where they are watching. They could sit on a bench or chairs. If the school has a bird feeder or water bath, children may like to watch the area of school ground that includes that feature because it is likely to have more birds than elsewhere in the school. The children don’t have to be able to see the whole school ground, just part of it.
The survey can be done at home, either individually, or with family or friends.
What to record
The highest number of each species seen at one time during a one hour observation period is recorded. For example, they might see blackbirds four times during the hour; first they might see 3 birds, then 2, then 3 again, and finally just 1. In this case, they report 3 blackbirds because that was the greatest number seen at any one time. They shouldn’t add the numbers up.
Where to send results
The online results form is accessed online. Data entry opens at the start of the survey.
Please note: If children participate as a group (e.g. as part of a school class) they enter only one set of data for the whole group (i.e. one set of data for each one‑hour survey). We don’t want separate entries from 30 children all seeing the same blackbird! However, children may do surveys at more than one location (e.g. at school and at home), in which case they enter results separately for each location.
Thank you for helping make our birds count!
We would be grateful for teacher feedback and any experiences you’d like to share, including photos. Join the conversation on social media and see what others are up to, check out our community page, or contact us directly
Bird colouring sheets
Selection of 16 native and introduced bird outlines for you to style in your own style
Sign up to take part in the school pilot
We are working on creating a platform especially for schools to take part in the Garden Bird Survey at any time throughout the year. If you would like your classroom to be a part of this pilot, please sign up here