Birds Love Stories: Greater Backyard Bird Count

Photo © shgeiger

Do you love stories? Well, birds do too. Not the kind you read in a book or hear from your best friend, but those found outside in your backyard or near-by forest. When birds are flying by, thinking about stopping in for a visit, they are looking for habitat that has overstories (like tall trees), midstories (like bushes) and understories (like short flowers and plants.)

Do you have all these “stories” in your backyard? Let’s help you find-out.

Download Our Story of Stories Poster

1) First, download or print this free Story of Stories poster from Habitat Network. If you want a larger size, you are welcome to send it to your local printer and have them make a large poster of it for you.

2) Head to your GBBC location with your binoculars, Story of Stories poster, pencil and paper to take notes of what you find.

3) Look at the vegetation. Can you see short plants and/or flowers (understories)? Are there medium sized bushes (midstories) and are there tall trees (overstories)?

Pond Watchers: Breck School

Photo © Barbara Jacobs-Smith

4) What kinds of plants are in each space? If you don’t know the exact names of plants, just write down how you would describe them. For example, “There is a tall tree with dark brown bark and green needles for leaves.”
If you want to learn how to identify the plants and name them, consider purchasing a copy of a North American field guide, or head online to ask your friends or experts.

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
Lady Bird Wildflower Center Database
Identify that Plant (summary of different ID websites, some region specific)

5) Now start your GBBC count making sure to look at all the different levels for birds. Just like people (who don’t all live in the city, suburbs or country), not all birds like to live in exactly the same place. Some birds like to live and eat close to the ground. Some birds like to perch and feed on small bushes and some birds like to live and eat in tall trees. And, some birds like to visit all the different stories!

Writing in Woods

Photo © Julie Jordan Scott

6) As a good scientist, make sure to record the time you watched the birds. Also, make sure to take good notes about what you saw and where it was you saw it. For example, “At 7:30am, on Saturday, February 1st, in my backyard, in Ithaca, New York, I saw a black and white bird. The birds was sitting in a medium bush eating sunflower seeds from our bird feeder. It was small and made a funny noise. I think it is a chickadee.”

7) Did you notice different kinds of birds in low, mid, and high places? Did you see one type of bird only in one place? What “story” did you see the most birds in?

8) Extend this activity by logging into YardMap with the same account you entered your GBBC list with and create a map of your bird-watching location. You will need to do this activity with an adult–maybe your mom or dad, grandma or grandpa would like to help? Here is an example of what a beautiful, complete YardMap looks like!

Drawing on a computer has never been so fun and important.

Middlesex, MA
Middlesex, MA