Feb 142014

A few of the bird species commonly observed during Michigan winters

Students in Comstock have been having some strange encounters of the feathered kind.  Fifth graders at the STEM Academy have been learning about the kinds of birds that will visit winter feeders.  Although the world might seem like a harsh polar-vortex tundra this time of year, many native birds stay here in Michigan.  Some arctic birds even migrate down to Michigan for the winter to escape the cold temperatures!  GK-12 fellow Cara Krieg taught Mrs. Grintal’s students how to identify the different Michigan birds common at this time of year.  The class was so excited about this lesson that they were identifying birds outside the classroom window the next day.  Students will use the skills they practiced in this lesson to count birds at a feeder outside of their classroom.  The data they collect will contribute to citizen science efforts to track bird populations world wide.

Citizen science efforts such as these are incredible resources for scientists that study birds.  Every year thousands of citizen scientists contribute their bird counts to the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count, the North American Breeding Bird Survey, and the Cornell run monitoring program eBird.  These programs allow scientists have access to much more data over a much longer period of time than they could ever hope to gather on their own.  These long term records can be used by scientists and resource managers to tell which bird populations are growing or shrinking or whether species ranges and the timing of migration are responding to climate or other environmental changes.


Cara teaches about MI winter birds in Comstock

If you are interested in the Michigan Winter Bird Guide or more information about these citizen science efforts, check out “What’s in my backyard?: Identifying winter birds in Michigan” on the lessons page!

By GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg, 2014