Free Nature Studies: Bird Guardians (Owls)

Birds act as guardians by eating harmful insects, serving as scavengers, and keeping down weeds.

Read current chapter online: “Bird Guardians”

  • Investigate the different North American Migratory Flyways. What type of birds might you see in your area during times of migration?
  • Add a notebooking page for each of the birds mentioned in this lesson using these links to the Cornell All About Birds guide:
  • Learn about the birds mentioned and their nests in our Free Bird Studies: Nests & Eggs series.
  • Make a chart showing the different types of insects different types of birds eat.  Some are mentioned in the lesson.  You may also find this Going Buggy chart at helpful.  And don’t miss the field study and journaling suggestion at the bottom!
  • What does it mean when we say that birds are warm-blooded animals? Find out at
  • Investigate the warbler family at  Make a chart showing the types of insects each different warbler will eat, and where they find them.
  • View a tent caterpillar.
  • The chapter referred to called “Dr. Woodpecker, Tree Surgeon” can be found in The Spell of the Rockies by Enos Mills.
  • Investigate the owl family at Which owls are common in your area?  What do they eat?  Add them to your bird notebook.
  • Read “The Birds of Killingworth” by Longfellow.
  • Something to do #1: Instead of making a new list, you can just add this information to your bird book started in the last lesson.
  • Something to do #2: The Holman Bible Dictionary can be helpful for finding the different types of birds mentioned in the Bible. Older students can choose several verses about birds that are used to illustrate important concepts. What analogies do they find?
  • Something to do #3: You can read about Saint Francis of Assisi in The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts by Abbie Farwell Brown.
  • Something to do #4: Use the bird poem for copywork or memorization.  You’ll find a list of bird poems in the additional resources below.
  • Memorize and recite Matthew 6:26 and 10:31.
  • Psalm 104:10-12 can be used for copywork or dictation.
  • More about birds from the Book of Knowledge:

You cannot draw a map with firm boundaries showing where all the families of birds make their homes. Some birds, to be sure, are stay-at-homes, but many are great travelers. Some live in northern climates in summer and go south to spend the winter. Others move about restlessly. Birds that stay in the same general locality throughout the year are called permanent residents. Those that settle in a region for the summer and raise their young there are called summer residents. Those present only in winter are winter residents (or winter visitors if they move about). Those that nest in the north, winter entirely in the south, and spend spring and fall in the central area are called migrants, or transients….

What strange power impels a tiny winged creature to leave its summer home within two or three weeks of the same day each year and fly thousands of miles to a winter home it has never seen? What then drives it to return again to the same part of the United States or Canada where it had been raised and to arrive so punctually that the date of its return can often be predicted to within a single week? How, year after year, does it find its way back to the identical field or wood where it raised its first young? …

Rising temperatures have much to do with the start north. In the southern states two or three days of abnormally warm weather in late January or early February will start the earliest migrants on their northward journey. Continuous cold weather, however, will delay the start. Some geese and ducks move northward as rapidly as the ice leaves the rivers and ponds. In general these birds, together with the earliest land birds, begin their migration as soon as the average temperature reaches thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit. In their northward movement they keep right up with this thirty-five degree average.

The start of spring migration appears to be connected with length of day as well as with temperature. As the days increase in length and the sun rises higher in the sky, changes take place in the bodies of the birds. The pituitary gland is stimulated, the reproductive organs develop, and finally the migration instinct is aroused….

Once the migration has actually started, the rate of travel and, to some extent, the routes are governed by the weather. Most species fly only about one hundred or two hundred miles in a night or a day and then rest and feed for two or three days or even a week before making another long flight.

“Bird Distribution and Migration,” The Book of Knowledge
  • Birds
    Ready to go outdoors? The Handbook of Nature study covers birds beginning on page 27, and continuing through page 143. The beginning pages cover feathers, flight, migration, eyes and ears, beaks, feet, songs of birds, attracting birds, the value of birds; the following material covers the individual types of birds.

Further Investigation

Great Horned Owl
Very descriptive article at Nature Friend magazine.

Basic information at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

All About Birds
Wonderful tool from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology that lets you browse by bird profile or taxonomy.


“The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear

“The Nightingale and Glow-Worm” by William Cowper

“A Bird Came Down” by Emily Dickinson

“The Dalliance of the Eagles” by Walt Whitman

“The Owl” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

“The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson


Bird Migration Game
Help the wood thrush migrate by answering questions in this interactive game from the Smithsonian.

Owl Pellet Dissection Lab

Barn Owl Pellet Kit
Dissection kit with 20 barn owl pellets, tweezers, and lab guide.

Sherlock Bones
Or go the virtual route! 

Owl Pellets lab for older students. Also includes a bone chart or grid that is helpful for identification (under Materials).

Typical Owls
Listen to the various owl calls at

All About Bird Song Interactive + Free Bird Song Download!
One way to learn more about how a bird “talks.”

Free Nature Studies: Bird Guardians

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
“If you go owling, you have to be quiet, that’s what Pa always says.”  A young girl out looking for a great horned owl way past her bedtime on a cold winter night — something she waited a long time to do.  Wonderful story and beautifully illustrated winner of the Caldecott Medal.  “When you go owling you don’t need words or warm or anything but hope.  That’s what Pa says.”

Migration of Birds ~ Free eBook
Helpful for investigation the migratory flyways as suggested above.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans
Audubon: A Unit Study

Audubon: A Unit Study
Many, many helpful books, resources and downloads in our Audubon unit study including our favorite identification guides, a bird coloring book download from Cornell, and instructions on how to draw birds.

Free Bird Studies Nests & Eggs
Our own covering 50 birds along with resources!

Printables & Notebooking Pages
Amazing Birds Student Manual {Free}

Amazing Birds Student Manual {Free}
18-page download from Cornell that includes sheets perfect for notebook!

Amazing Birds Teacher Manual {Free}
Extensive 31-page download with teaching ideas and resources that goes with above.

Great Horned Owl
Coloring/information page at

Bird Facts Notebooking Page
Free download from

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}
Free blank nature journal sets for drawing, illustrating, copying, or narrating.

Bird Guardian (Owls) Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, and wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World

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