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Let’s Hear it for the Birds!

Let’s Hear it for the Birds!

January 23, 2020

2018 is the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), a law that was passed that helped protect birds from poaching and habitat loss. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the MBTA, the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International and National Geographic have partnered to share a year of storytelling, education and activities aptly named the Year of the Bird.

In recognition of birds, this month’s Try it at Home Experiment is all about birds and what kind of food they like. Different kinds of birds like different kinds of food – just like humans! For this experiment, we’re going to try to figure out if birds like certain colors of birdseed.

Items Needed:

  • 3 different colors of birdseed
  • 3 small bowls or dishes of the same size
  • Measuring Cup
  • Pen or pencil
  • Notebook
  • Outdoor area/patio/yard


  1. Measure out 1 cup of bird seed for each color of seed.
  2. Put 1 cup of the first color seed into one bowl. Repeat with the next color of bird seed. You should end up with 3 bowls of seed, each with a different color of seed inside.
  3. Place the bowls outside near an open area. Birds are found everywhere, so don’t worry if you don’t have a large yard!
  4. Make a list in your notebook about what kind of birds you think will eat what kind of seed.
  5. Wait a full day and measure the amount of seed left in each bowl. Record your observations.
  6. If you notice birds at the bowls, make a note of what they look like, write down their species names if you know them, or take a picture so you can identify them later!
  7. Check on the seed bowls a few times on the second day to see which ones are preferred. Record your observations – what time did you check, how much seed is left, which colors are more popular?
  8. After your final check, make note of which bowl the least amount of seed in it has. What color was that? Is that what you expected to happen?

Bird is the Word!

Experiments have shown that birds recognize color and some research has found that many birds are attracted to bright colors. Hummingbirds, for example, are attracted to reds and oranges, which may remind them of their preferred flowers.

Continue your research to see if more types of birds prefer one seed over another. If you get pictures of the birds, see if you can use a scientific guide to identify them. Do cardinals and goldfinches like the same seed?  You can learn a lot from watching birds and there’s no better time than the Year of the Bird.

Experiment Source: