Young bird enthusiasts can easily pursue educational reports and projects about their feathered friends. There is a wide range of science fair projects about birds suitable for different grade levels and science disciplines, and a young ornithologist could easily have their interest in a scientific career sparked with a creative and challenging project.
Before beginning a project, review the school and district science fair guidelines to be sure a bird-related project is acceptable. Always get project approval from supervising teachers if necessary, and be aware of ongoing deadlines and timelines for entering projects in different competitions.
No matter how enthusiastic a student may be about birds, that interest can wane if a project is not chosen carefully. When selecting a bird-related project, consider:
- Grade level: Choose a project suitable to the student's grade level and the type of science that interests them. While a project should stretch their skills, it should not be completely beyond their abilities.
- Project type: Depending on grade level, projects may need a research, observational, or data analysis focus, or they may need a stronger experimental or hypothesis component to be acceptable.
- Time: The time needed to complete the project and the annual timing are critical for bird-related projects. Studying population changes, for example, may take several months, while migration studies should be done only in spring or fall.
- Supplies: Supply costs and any necessary equipment or outside assistance, such as visiting a bird rehabilitator or participating in bird banding events, should be factored into how achievable the project is.
- Bird safety: The safety of the birds should always be foremost. No harm should be done to live animals through the experiment, and laws such as the Migratory Bird Act must always be obeyed.
Elementary School Projects (Grades K-5)
Science fair projects for young students are generally report-based and involve sharpening basic research skills. This can easily be done through bird-related projects such as:
- Species reports: Research a state bird, unique species, or endangered bird and create a thorough report including photos, video, or personal observations.
- Types of birds: Compare types of birds and how they are different in size, shape, and behavior, also noting how they are the same and what makes every one of them a bird.
- Feeder colors: Use the same type of feeder in different colors to determine if color plays a role in how birds use the feeder. Monitor seed levels to see which color is more popular for hungry birds.
- Seed preferences: Offer different foods at backyard feeders and note which seeds and other foods are most popular with which birds.
- Prehistoric birds: Create a report about feathered dinosaurs and other prehistoric birds, studying how birds evolved and what similarities modern birds share with their extinct ancestors.
- Threats to birds: Research different threats birds face and how those threats affect bird populations, with suggestions for how to help birds and promote bird conservation.
Junior High or Middle School Projects (Grades 6-9)
At the junior high level, science fair projects should have some experimental components showing hands-on research. For bird-related projects, great ideas for middle school students include:
- Hummingbird nectar concentrations: Make hummingbird nectar with different concentrations of sugar, then record which concentrations are most popular.
- Hummingbird nectar colors: Use natural food coloring to create a rainbow of nectars, and offer each one in a clear feeder. Record which colors are most popular.
- Pellet dissection: Dissect several owl pellets and analyze their contents to determine what foods owls prefer and what range of prey they take.
- Bill shapes: Study different bill shapes and compare them to bird diets. Then offer different foods at feeders and record which birds visit frequently and what shapes their bills are.
- Bird deterrents: Try different ways to keep birds out of a garden or away from a feeder, such as discouraging bully birds, and offer solutions for the most effective deterrents.
- Bird diversity: Visit different habitats and record the numbers and types of birds in different seasons, analyzing how habitat and season affect populations and diversity.
- Invasive wildlife: Study invasive birds or invasive predators such as feral cats and how they affect native species, discussing what can be done to deter these unwanted intruders.
- Backyard habitats: Create a bird-friendly landscape to attract one type of bird. Alternatively, use general bird-friendly techniques and record the changes in backyard bird diversity.
High School Projects (Grades 10-12)
High school students should choose projects with in-depth experiments or highly analytical research and analysis. The more detailed the project, the more impressive it will be to judges as well as college recruitment officers. Bird-related projects suitable for high school science fairs include:
- Physics of flight: Study how birds fly and use slow-motion videos to analyze wing movements and posture changes, relating those observations to physics and engineering principles.
- Population changes: Record seasonal bird population changes and conduct field surveys to show local fluctuations, with analysis of long term population trends.
- Nest cams: Build a nest cam to observe a local nest, or use online nest cams to compare nesting habits of different species of birds or the same species in different areas.
- Bird banding: Participate in bird banding sessions and use the data collected to report on bird physiology and other characteristics.
- Bird rehabilitation: Volunteer with a bird rehabilitator and learn about caring for injured birds, using that experience to generate ideas for more effective bird conservation.
- Birdbath bacteria: Study algae or bacteria growth in different birdbaths and devise more effective ways to clean and sterilize bird baths to minimize diseases or insects.
- Robotic flight: Use bird mechanics such as flight pattern and wing shape to create a robotic bird or bird-like project that demonstrates more efficient flight.
No matter what grade level a student may be at or just how they are interested in birds, they can create an award-winning science fair project to share their love of birds and deepen their interest in ornithology.