“If I were a bird, I’d be a cardinal and I’d stay for the winter!”

“If I were a bird, I’d be a bald eagle and I’d migrate for the winter!”

“Look, look, there’s a chickadee in the bush!”

These were some of the excited calls coming from the 2nd graders at Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden as they studied bird migration this fall. Students learned about the many challenges that migrating birds face, and the adaptations they have that help them make such long journeys. Using true-to-size silhouettes, tape measures, and their own bodies for scale, the children marveled at the size of some of the “great migrators” like the Osprey, with a wingspan of 5-6 feet, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, who weigh little more than a penny and yet beat their wings over 3,000 times per minute. The kiddos were astonished at the speed of the Peregrine Falcon, who can reach over 200 miles per hour when diving for prey, and the stamina of the Arctic Tern, who has the longest migration in the world – from the Arctic to Antarctica and back every year. 

 Photo taken by David St. Germaine

The children also learned about many of the feathery residents who call Vermont home all year long. These birds have many strategies to survive the cold winter, like chickadees, who flock up for warmth and grow more brain cells to remember where they previously stashed seeds. In one activity, students were each given a card with a specific food source illustrated on it and asked to imagine: if you were a bird who eats this food, would you migrate or would you stay? “I’d stay because I’m a bird who eats mice,” one student said, “I know mice are around all winter because they like to live in our house.” Another student exclaimed, “I’m a bird who eats fish from ponds, so I’m out of here!” reasoning that because ponds freeze in winter, he wouldn’t be able to catch any fish.

Chickadee in winter, Erik Karits, Pexels.

At the end of this Four Winds workshop, students were excited to receive a quick reference sheet of common winter birds and a spreadsheet for recording their bird sightings. 

Whether at the feeder or on a snowshoe through the woods, keep YOUR eyes open this month for some of these common winter birds!

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