Bird Protection In Schools

Values of Bird-study.— The values of bird-study in its influence on child-life are many. It has a practical value in showing the great economic service which birds render man, as a result of which knowledge the child will become a more serviceable citizen it has a training-value in teaching the child to become an accurate observer, as a result of which his later mental development will be more complete ; it has a very distinct aesthetic value, as a means of arousing an interest in nature, which may form a life-long source of enjoyment, in which respect it is ex-celled, perhaps, by no other subject in its possibilities ; and finally the study of bird-life has a moral value in broadening the sympathies of the child and developing a spirit of kindness and thoughtfulness toward all living things. A subject full of such possibilities is certainly worthy of more than passing notice in our school system.

> Bird-protection. — To interest the children in birds is also the most permanent way of furthering bird-protection. One may almost say that only through instruction in the schools will eventually come that enlightened public opinion which will insure permanent and effective bird-protection. The necessity of having bird-study generally introduced into the schools, as a part of nature-study, cannot be too strongly emphasized. The importance of this is recognized by such organizations as the Audubon Societies, which are doing a splendid educational work. The protection of our native birds is an economic question of such importance that our school system must be utilized to solve the problems which arise in this connection. In the hands of the school-teacher lies the solution of this and other economic problems of the day. The children should be taught the value of birds and encouraged to protect them. This may be accomplished in a positive, not a negative way ; that is, the children are to be taught not merely that they must not injure the birds and rob their nests, but also that they are to do something for the birds, — protect them, feed them, build houses for them, and be kind to them.

The Child’s Activities. — One of the most effective phases of nature-study is that which calls into play the manual activities of the child in providing for himself opportunities for making studies of the life around him. This principle of utilizing the child’s activities is one that is well understood and applied in the kindergarten, but too little employed in later years. It will prove a most effective instrument to be used with the children when circumstances allow. Bird-study is specially well adapted to make use of these activities in building bird-houses for winter protection and spring nesting, and lunch-tables for feeding the winter birds, and in providing drinking fountains. The very fact that the child is doing something for the birds is a means of developing that helpful sympathy with nature which may prove such an important factor in all his subsequent life. And, furthermore, an excellent opportunity is offered for training the perceptive powers of children by watching the birds that may come in response to the attractions offered. These observations will be carried on with much greater ardor and thoroughness because the child has himself helped to furnish the conditions which make his observations possible.

Building Nesting-houses

Manual Training. — The construction of these houses and lunch-counters may be carried on at the home, or it may naturally be correlated with the work in manual training, as is being done in some cities. Mr. Finley, a field-agent of the Audubon Societies, writes from Oregon : We have a great deal of interest in bird-study worked up in various schools about the state. Wherever there is a manual-training school they are making many bird-houses.” Superintendent Alderman, of Eugene, Oregon, writes that while he was county school superintendent of Gamhill County he encouraged the children of the manual-training department to build bird-houses, which they did to the extent of .over one thousand. With reference to the work in Eugene he writes : ” As a result of a little encouragement, the children brought in for inspection 334 bird-houses. They filled three rooms of the Eugene High School. Almost every yard has a bird-house in it now. Birds build in most of the houses. The notes the children kept of the selection of the house, etc., were made the basis of the language work. The children were warned not to let the English sparrow build in the houses. The following birds built in the children’s houses : violet-green swallow, bluebird, wren, chickadee. The civilizing effect of bird-study upon the children is at once evident. It is the finest training in observation that I know of.”

In the School of Education of Chicago University, a new method was adopted in the clay-work department, of modeling bird-houses from clay, the work being done by the children in the sixth grade. (See description, page 22, and illustration opposite page 22.)

But whether the work is done in the manual-training department or not, there will be little difficulty in arousing the interest of the children sufficiently so that they will build bird-houses and bring them to school for inspection. The matter may be brought to the attention of the children early in the winter, because the houses may serve as a shelter for the winter birds; but the children will probably be more enthusiastic in the early spring, when there is a more immediate prospect that the houses will be occupied.

Method in the Schoolroom. — The subject should be introduced by a general discussion of those birds which nest in hollow trees or other cavities. The children should be asked to search the neighborhood to ascertain to what extent those natural nesting-sites can be found. In many localities these have been entirely cleared away in the development of the land for real-estate purposes, and thus may be urged the necessity of building bird-houses if we would keep up the numbers of these birds. The problems which arise in connection with the construction and location of bird-houses should be talked over with the children and the important precautions to be observed explained as discussed in Chapter u. The really essential features having been made clear, the children should be allowed to use their ingenuity and individuality about arranging other details.

Difficulties. —The children should understand the difficulties to be met, so as to avoid undue disappointment, and should be prepared to overcome them so far as possible. The greatest obstacle of all will be the English sparrow. Some devices which may assist in keeping this bird away have been discussed in Chapter the most effective one of which is to make the hole so small that the sparrows cannot enter, but large enough for the wren and chickadee. With blue-birds’ and tree swallows’ houses probably the most effective thing which the children can do is to make the houses so that the top may be easily lifted, and then to remove the eggs of the spar-row once a week or as fast as they are laid. But in no event should the sparrow be allowed to rear young. If nothing else can be done, the entrance holes should be covered, or the house taken down, as soon as it is evident that no other bird is going to use the house. Of course killing the sparrows cannot be recommended to the children. Whatever is done in this line must be left to the adults.

If the school building is favorably located, houses should be put up in the school-yard. These should be of types adapted to the different species of birds, so as to attract as many kinds as possible. If these are occupied, opportunity will be furnished the whole school for bird-study.

It would be well worth while to see if the park boards would not cooperate with the schools, so that the children might make a large number of houses and place them in the parks. In the spring of 1906 such a plan was tried in Jackson and Washington parks, Chicago, the children making several hundred bluebird and wren houses.

If the children’s bird-houses at home are occupied, they. should be encouraged to make frequent reports on what they observe. The children should be strongly cautioned not to examine the houses closely after the birds once begin to build, be-cause they are easily frightened away. The teacher should not ask for any observations which require a close examination of the house during this period. After the young are hatched, the box may be inspected more closely, but the young should not be handled. The children will be so anxious to report that they will not need much encouragement, but some directions may be given to guide their observations. The following suggestions for studying bird-tenants are given in “Bird-Lore,” by Mr. T. Gilbert Pearson, who has charge of the department ” For Young Observers ” : —

” If those young observers who put out bird-boxes this spring will watch closely, they may see many new and delightful things happen when the birds come to make their nests in them. Let me suggest that each of you have a note-book and keep a diary of what takes place about the bird-box. When you once begin this, there will be so many things to write down that you will find it hard to know just what to include in your notes. In order to guide those who may be interested in keeping a note-book, I am going to ask some questions, which, if you can answer correctly at the end of the summer, will show that you have made a good study of the birds you have been watching. With this information all carefully preserved in your note-book, you will be able to write an article for the ‘ Young Observers” department, and thus let us all share something of the pleasure which has been yours during the days when you so carefully watched the pair of bright birds flying daily about your home.


“1. What date did the birds first appear in your box?

“2. What kind of birds chose the box for their home? Did any other species attempt to drive them away ?

“3. When did they first begin to bring material for the nest, and how many days before they ceased to perform their work?

“4. What time of the day did the birds work most at their task, and how early in the morning and late in ,the evening did you see them thus engaged?

“5. Did the male and female both build the home ? if not, which one appeared to be the most active in the work ?

“6. How many days passed after the birds stopped carrying nesting-material before the eggs hatched?

“7. How often were the young fed between eight and nine o’clock in the morning and four and five o’clock in the afternoon on two different days? Did both birds feed the young, and could you tell what they fed them?

“8. How many days after the eggs hatched before the young left the nest?

“9. Did the young know how to fly at once upon leaving the nest, and do you think the old ones taught them to fly ?

“10. When the birds have left the nest not to return again, take out the nesting-material and see of what it is composed. How many feathers, twigs, strings, pieces of grass, or other articles did it contain ? ”

Feeding Winter Birds

The introductory work to feeding the winter birds should be done in the late fall, as it is important that food should be provided early to secure the greatest returns in attracting the birds. A talk on the food of birds may be given so as to bring out the two classes of foods for birds, the animal and vegetable. The purpose of this talk should be, first, to show the children the kind of food to be provided ; second, to show that much of the food of the birds is covered by snow and ice. Suggestions should be given regarding the best kinds of food to be used and the best ways of putting it out (for a discussion of which see Chapter iii). The necessity of providing a constant supply of food should be emphasized, and also of seeing that there is a food-supply immediately following snowstorms. It will be well to remind the children each week about the food-supply, so that they will not forget it. The children will become enthusiastic over the prospect of taming the birds sufficiently to feed from the hand. The construction of moving lunch-counters, as suggested on page 94, may be made a part of the manual-training work, as well as the building of bird-houses. This kind of counter is especially recommended to the children for its conveniences, as being easily kept provided with food, as being a partial protection against the English sparrow, and as furnishing a means of gradually taming the birds.

Shelter. —And not only should the children be encouraged to provide food, but some places of shelter as well. The bird-houses intended for nesting-sites may serve this purpose, or a more open box with back toward the storms may be placed in some sheltered spot.

And while the children are being encouraged to feed the birds at home, a lunch-counter should be provided in the school-yard if the conditions will allow it. The following suggestions regarding such a table are given by Mrs. M. O. Wright in ” A Year With the Birds ” : —


” As you have already learned, some birds eat insects and others seed-foods ; or, to put it in another way, some birds prefer meat and some bread ; so if you wish to suit all kinds you must feed them with sandwiches, made of both bread and meat.

“Sandwiches for birds ! — how foolish !’ I hear some one say. Stop and think a moment, and you will see that it is merely a way of expressing, a figure of speech, as it is called.

” Give the birds the material, crumbs, cracked corn, hayloft sweepings, bits of bacon, suet, or bones that have some rags of meat attached, and they will make their own sandwiches, each one to his taste.

“If this food is merely scattered upon the ground it will attract mice, rats, and other rodents, but if a regular lunch-counter is prepared for the food, you will find that the birds will appreciate the courtesy, become liberal customers and run up a long bill ; this, however, they will pay with music when spring comes.


“Every school has its flag-pole, and, while some are fastened to the building itself, many stand free and are planted in the yard.

” Around this pole a square or circular shelf about eight inches wide can be fastened, four feet from the ground, and edged with a strip of beading, barrel-hoops, or the like. A dozen ten-penny nails should be driven on the outside edge at intervals, like the spokes to a wheel, and the whole neatly painted to match the pole.

” Then each week one child should be appointed, as Bird Steward, his or her duties being to collect the scraps after the noon dinner-hour and place them neatly on the counter, the crusts and crumbs on the shelf and the meat to be hung on the spikes.

“Nothing will come amiss —pine-cones, beech-nuts, the shells of hard-boiled eggs, broken fine, apple-cores, half-cleaned nuts ; and if the children will tell their parents of the counter, they will often put an extra scrap or so in the dinner-pail to help the feast. Or the fortunate children whose fathers keep the market, the grocery-store, or the mill, may be able to obtain enough of the wastage to leave an extra supply on Friday, so that the pensioners need not go hungry over Sunday.

” All the while the flag will wave gayly over the little Citizen Bird, as under its protection it feeds on its human brother’s bounty.”

In case any efforts are made by adults in the neighborhood to feed systematically those birds which do not come close to buildings, such as the quail and partridge, the older boys of the school should become enthusiastic assistants in helping to clear away the snow at the feeding-stations, and provide fresh supplies of food.

The following suggestions are given to direct the children’s observations of the winter birds : —

1. Try a variety of foods and note what kind of food is eaten by each species and what kind each seems to prefer. Does each kind of bird eat both vegetable and animal food, or confine itself to one kind ? What birds eat the greatest variety of foods? Which birds will eat suet from a tree-trunk ?

2. How do the various birds approach the counter ? Do they give any warning of their coming by giving any call-notes ?

3. After reaching the counter, note their actions. Do they stay on the trough and eat the food, or do they fly away with it first?

4. Do the birds all crack seeds in the same manner?

5. At what time in the morning are the first visits made, and at what time in the afternoon the last ?

6. Which birds seem to visit the counter most frequently during the day? Which least frequently?

7. Make a list of birds in accordance with the degree of tameness which they show, placing the tamest first. Which ones will come to the window-sill? Do any become so tame as to feed out of the hand?

8. How early in the season do the birds begin to feed? Which come first? How late in the spring do the birds continue to come? Which remain the longest?

9. Do any of the migrating birds in the spring come to feed?

10. Make a list of the birds in the order of fear shown toward other birds, placing first those which are not driven from the trough by the approach of other birds and last those most easily driven away.

11. Occasionally an individual bird has some peculiar marking by which it may be recognized. If you find any of this kind, make a special study of that individual, noting in what ways he differs from other individuals of the same species.

12. In what kind of weather do the largest number of birds come to feed ?

13. Toward night, watch the bird-houses or shelters that you may have provided and see what birds use them.

The observations made both on the winter birds and on those that nest in houses may well serve as the foundation for much of the language-work. The children will take hold of the work with much more zest and interest because it is based upon something which they have actually seen and done.

English Sparrow. — The great difficulty to be met here, as with bird-houses, is the English spar-row. But the ill results may be’ less noticeable here than with the bird-houses, for only one pair can nest in a house, while many birds may do their feeding at a counter, if not at the same time, then at different times during the day. But the general effect of the sparrows is to drive other birds away, for they congregate in flocks even when they are not feeding. Some suggestions as to how this difficulty may be partly met in the construction and location of the counters have been given in Chapter iii, but of course the children should not attempt the methods of poisoning or trap-ping explained there. This should be left for adults.

While the two methods of attracting birds discussed in this chapter are the ones best adapted for school use, something may also be done in the line of encouraging the children to provide drinking-fountains and of instructing them how to make the fountains. The planting of trees and shrubs requires so long before the returns come in, that this method of attracting the birds will not appeal strongly to the children, but they may be encouraged to plant a row of hemp, Japanese millet, or sunflowers, to attract the goldfinches, and to furnish a supply for the winter lunch-table.

Bird fountain in a School-yard. — In some cases it may be practicable to construct a bird-fountain in the school-yard, which may thus provide an opportunity for the children to study the habits of the birds which visit it, and may furnish an incentive and object-lesson for the children to construct a fountain at home. Such a fountain was constructed a few years ago in a school-yard at Worcester, Massachusetts, under the super-vision of Miss Edna R. Thayer. The money was raised by the children in various ways, the entire cost of the fountain being twenty-two dollars and fifty cents. The fountain was made on the same plan as that described by Dr. Hodge (pages 120, 121). Wild flowers were planted in the crevices of the fountain and at its base, and clumps of shrubbery were set near so that their fruit might furnish food for the birds. Connections were made so that running water dripped into the basin, and a drain carried off the surplus water, The first year that the fountain was built it was visited by twenty-five species of birds before school closed in June.

Some of the results of this fountain are thus set forth by Miss Thayer in ” Primary Education “: —

” Without a suggestion from any one several of the older boys and girls copied the bird fountain idea at their homes. Some placed pans of water in the midst of a pile of stones, with plants filling the spaces between them, the pan to be emptied each day ; while one boy connected a length of old rubber hose to his pan, thus securing a constant supply of cool, fresh water.

” And so the bird-fountain seems to have been a happy thought for our school. The children have learned to know the birds and their habits with a sympathetic and protective interest which could never have been aroused had they not had a personal share in helping and caring for their little feathered neighbors.”

A fountain on the same plan has recently been constructed in the yard of Franklin School, Passaic, New Jersey. The children were given a talk on bird-fountains and shown pictures of the one at Worcester, and asked if they would like to have a similar one in their own yard. Under the enthusiastic guidance of Miss Lees, the principal, the children contributed liberally, so that, after paying for the fountain and the shrubs and other plants set around it, there was a small surplus left. The stones used in the construction of the fountain were rough pieces of red sandstone, obtained from neighboring excavations, and matching the foundation and trimmings of the school building. The fountain has been finished so recently that there has not been sufficient time to report any results.