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Wingin’ It: A Study of How Birds Adapt to Urban Environments

Fellow:  Zachary Aidala   Teacher:  Kelly Feeney

Course Purpose

The aim of this course is for students to understand the dynamic relationship between urban environments and local bird populations by conducting guided field studies and authentic reserach projects. 

Course Description

Have you ever wondered why birds nest in lampposts instead of trees? Or why there are so many pigeons in the city and why they don’t move out of the way when you walk nearby? And have you ever seen a group of birds eating leftover food on the sidewalk? This course, Winging It: A Study of How Birds Adapt to Urban Environments, will answer these questions and more by introducing students to the city as an ecosystem that both supports and threatens local and migratory bird populations. Students will gain knowledge of how birds have adapted to live in urban environments through the use of field studies and authentic research. They develop research skills such as observation, data collection and analysis, and scientific communication. By the end of this course, students will have a deep understanding of the nature of science and the role that cities play on influencing bird behaviors. Those species that can adapt to the changing landscape learn how to “wing it” and survive in cities; and those that don’t, take flight.  

This course is designed for sudents enrolled in an Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science or Biology courses and is intended to follow the AP Exam. It is comprised of two units, 25 hours of lessons, whose purpose is to enable students to conduct their own research projects. The course can also be used as a science elective or within an existing year-long secondary science class.



TG = Teacher's Guide; SG = Student Guide

Course Outline

Unit 1  Introduction to Urban Birds and Field Techniques

Activity 1  Introduction to Urban Birds

Activity 2  Urban Bird Count

Activity 3  Urban Bird Song Analysis

Unit 2 Student Research on Urban Birds

Activity 4  Developing a Good Research Question (TG) (SG)

Activity 5  Conducting a Literature Review

Activity 6  Designing a Methodology

Activity 7  Collecting Data

Activity 8  Analyzing Data

Activity 9  Presenting Results