An Inquiry Learning Activity
from Conservation Tales
Have you ever found a feather on the ground, and wondered what kind of bird it came from? Scientists who study birds can often identify a bird just by looking at a feather. They look for differences in size, shape, colors and patterns to help them use feathers as evidence.
In this activity, you can practice that skill, too! There are three sections of the Feather Detective game! Click on the name of the group of birds you’d like to try to identify from the list below.
In the activity, you’ll see a group of feathers, and a group of photographs of birds. Look at the colors and patterns on the photographs, and then choose the feather that you think came from each bird. Drag the feathers on top of the birds, and the click “Submit” to check your answers!
You can “Retry” a set if you like, or you can return to this page to try another group of birds!
Feather Detective game sections
- At My Feeder – Try your hand at identifying feathers from birds that may live in your neighborhood and come to your bird feeder.
- Midwest Fields & Woods – This group of birds are species you might see in the woods, fields and wetlands of the American Midwest.
- Let’s Travel! – The birds in this group are ones you might see if you travel around the Americas! They include some very colorful birds!
Discussion Questions: After you test your skills at identifying birds in the Feather Detective games, talk about what you saw and learned with a friend, a teacher, or a nature center leader.
- Which feathers have you seen before? Did you know what kind of bird they came from?
- Which feathers in the game were the hardest to identify? What made those feathers more difficult?
- Do you think you might find two feathers from the same bird that look different? What makes you think this?
- How do you think a scientist can use feathers as evidence to study the birds in an area?
Continuing Your Research!
Now that you have begun to think about bird identification based on feathers, keep a journal or science notebook about bird evidence you find.
- If you find a feather, take a picture, draw it, or take notes. See if you can find a picture of a bird you think the feather came from! **Don’t collect the feathers! Some species are protected, and laws may prohibit you from keeping feathers from birds like hawks, owls, eagles, herons, and parrots.
- Try your hand at learning to identify birds by their songs, too! Add the birds you recognize by sound to your journal. (You can practice at these websites that teach about bird songs!)
- People who study birds and those who watch birds as a hobby sometimes keep a “Life List” of birds. You can use your journal as your list of birds you have seen or heard. You can add to your list for many years… just like a real scientist!
You can find out more about birds from the following books in the Conservation Tales series:
Check out the entire Conservation Tales series at conservationtales.com