Feathers, flyways and fast food

Original by Dr Margaret Rowe, 2002
Last revised by the Department of the Environment and Heritage, December 2004
ISBN 0 6425 4820 X

Suggestions for teachers

Learning activities

  • Questions and activities—these are included with the above notes.
  • Read to the class parts of Jonathon Livingston Seagull.
  • Make contact with students at a school somewhere else in the flyway.
  • Take an excursion to view birds (seek help from a government agency or a local group with an interest in birds or natural history).
  • Watch a video about birds—e.g. Life of Birds, by Attenborough, ABC.
  • Make a light aerofoil and try it out in front of a fan.
  • Experiment with tins of warm water—measure temperature changes over time while the tins are wrapped in black paper, white paper, thick insulating material.
  • View the vanes of a feather with a microscope.
  • Investigate the technology and use of the boomerang.
  • Investigate early attempts of humans to fly and modern flight
  • Read sections of the previous notes and summarise the main points using concept maps: For example, use the words: shorebirds, migration, breeding grounds, wintering grounds, stopovers, flyway, food, moult, hatch, navigation.
  • Make posters or Power Point presentations. For example, groups of students specialise in an aspect of the information provided above. Power Point presentations should be restricted to 6 or 8 slides, planned on paper first.
  • Jigsaw method. Students could be assigned to 4 or 5 expert groups to gather information about an aspect
  • of the information provided above and gather additional pictures and information. They then return to their home groups of 4 or 5 students to share what they have learned and contribute to some kind of group presentation.
  • Write questions—students can be provided with two or three paragraphs of text (from these notes) printed in the middle of an A3 sheet. They can be asked to write questions around the text. They then indicate the answer to their questions with an arrow and underline within the text provided. If all students have the same text they can then ask and answer each others' questions. (This can be modified by the teacher writing the questions and the students underlining the answers and indicating them with an arrow from the question to the answer).
  • Students can be provided with a diagram and asked to annotate it with information and explanations.
  • Students find a suitable map and draw in the flyway, with suggested stopovers, for a particular bird.
  • Students could write the diary of a particular bird—making monthly entries over a year. Students could "migrate with a bird", recording their experiences.
  • Make model birds, or a bird mobile (either realistic or an imagined birds)-from scrap bits and pieces, from vegetables and plants, or using clay, paper maché etc. Write an explanation about the bird's way of life–what it eats, how it gets its food etc.
  • Students write a story for a young child. The main character is a particular shorebird that tells its story The story should incorporate some facts about the bird's life and journey. The story could be illustrated, making a little booklet or screen presentation.
  • After studying the topic revise by:
    • Place 6 sheets of butchers paper at stations around the room. Each sheet has a topic on it (see below). Divide students into 6 groups. Give each group a different coloured texta. Start with one group at each station. Allow about 3 minutes for the groups to write 1 or 2 answers to the question at their first station. Rotate the groups. Repeat this, until all groups have visited each station. Share the results.

Suggested interest areas:

Facts about birds feathers
How birds keep their body temperature steady at about 40°C.
The journey made by migratory shorebirds
Shorebirds breeding ground–where? What is it like?
Eggs and chicks
Birds and their senses–what can they detect?
Inside a bird's body–lungs, heart, digestive system
What do shorebirds need to survive?
What dangers do shorebirds face?

Students can be asked to prepare a very brief summary of information on an A3 sheet:

Example of A3 worksheet:

Where the bird lives at various times of the year
Picture of a shorebird
What is there about the shape of the bill, or wings that suits the bird to its way of life
What the bird eats and how it feeds at various times of the year
Scientific and common name of the bird
What does the bird do that protects it from predators
Aspects of the bird that camouflage it in the different places is lives
List of books, notes and web sites used for reference
Something interesting about the lungs, heart digestion or senses of the bird

Where do birds and international migratory shorebirds fit into the curriculum?

The subject matter fits into the science curriculum and the environmental education aspects of SOSE or integrated studies. Skills in English, mathematics, technology and the arts can be involved when gathering and communicating information. In some cases, it may be possible to communicate with a school overseas, involving and encouraging students in developing skills in LOTE.

The information provided may also be suitable for year 11 biology students. For example, the principles of structure and function and adaptations to the environment are illustrated.

The Science Area of Study

Middle primary school

Shorebirds, migration, what they need to survive (especially food, water and suitable space to feed and roost). Senses of the birds– e.g. tactile and visual feeders. Navigation. Effects of humans.

Upper primary school

  • Food chains–shorebirds, migration, what the birds eat (including what the prey eat and what eats the birds).
  • Foraging for food–different bill lengths–different food.
  • Competition for food–other shorebirds–bill length. Lungs, heart and blood circulation, excretion of birds–compare with humans, mention water budget.
  • Camouflage Strong skeletal structure of chest and strong flight muscles.

Lower secondary school

  • Classification of living things–5 kingdoms.
  • Classification of vertebrates–use of dichotomous keys.
  • Characteristics of birds.
  • Classification of birds–what is a species?
  • Food chains and food webs–lemmings, wolves, owls and shorebirds.
  • Communication between birds, flocking (mixed), pairing.
  • Changes in ecosystems–seasonal migration.

Middle secondary school

  • Flow chart explaining wing movements in flight and effect of airofoil.
  • Flow chart explaining process of breathing in birds–compare with humans.
  • Evolution: Diagrams and points of comparison–forelimbs of birds and various mammals.
  • Adaptations to the environment–structure, camouflage, migratory behaviour, feeding behaviour.
  • Nerves and hormones–cycles–daily and yearly. Sense organs–eye, ear, navigation skills.
  • DNA testing–identification of races–are they separate and identification of destinations of birds.
  • Concept maps (shorebirds, migration, flyway, stopover sites, wintering grounds, breeding grounds, weight (fat), moult, breeding plumage).