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Feeding the birds

An ideal activity for home-based learning that focuses on the diet and habit of birds.

Curriculum connections
Level 1 & 2Recognise that all living things have certain requirements so they can stay alive. Recognise that living things are suited to their particular habitat.
Level 3Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human-induced.
Level 5Identify the key structural features and functions involved in the life processes of plants and animals. Investigate the interdependence of living things (including humans) in an ecosystem.

Learning materials

  • Toilet paper roll
  • String/twine
  • Scissors
  • Honey
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Container that will fit a toilet paper roll (e.g. sandwich container)
  • Bird seed (*or alternative feed)


Birds like all sorts of foods, just like humans!  Depending on the species of bird, they may be attracted to different smells, textures and tastes of food

  1. Go to this site to learn more about what species of bird is drawn to specific types of foods
  2. Complete the following table with 4 examples:
Species Nectar Fruit Foliage Insects
e.g Tui X X   X
  1. Knowing what foods to avoid feeding birds is just as important as knowing what they love to eat! Using the same site, list 5 foods to avoid feeding birds in your backyard.
  2. Native plants provide food for birds throughout the year. 
  3. Go to this site and use the table titled ‘Monthly calendar of plants for birds’ to choose 3 plants that provide their nutrients in April and meet the following criteria:
Common name Botanical name Food
    Fruit and seeds
    Fruit, seeds and nectar

Activities and teaching strategies

  1. Fill the empty container with bird seed (or alternative feed) and place on a counter or easily cleaned surface.  Using the popsicle stick, cover the outside of the toilet paper roll with honey.  Roll the honey covered toilet paper roll in the bird seed until covered. 
  2. Answer the following questions:
  3. What bird species do you usually see in your neighbourhood?
  4. Which seeds do you think will be eaten first?
  5. How long do you think it will take for the toilet roll to be empty?
  6. Thread a piece of twine through the toilet paper roll and knot.  Find a spot to hang your bird feeder where you think the birds will enjoy it! 
  7. Based on the spot you have chosen, do you think any other creatures might be able to access it?  If so, which ones and why?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of the chosen spot?


Levels 1-9This year April 22nd marks the 50th Anniversary of the environmental movement known as Earth Day: the bird feeder activity focuses on recycling and reusing what we already have while also taking care of the environment, the birds. What other actions can you think of to help the environment? Learn more about current Earth Day initiatives and choose one that is feasible for you to participate in. This year Earth Day has gone digital!
Levels 1-5Ornithology, the study of birds, can be further explored by keeping a journal with a tally of who visits your feeder, sketches and observations. Who visits the feeder the most?
Levels 3-6: Investigate symbiotic relationships between plants and birds and how they have both adapted to the local environment in New Zealand.


Department of Conservation [DOC] New Zealand. (2020). Attract birds to your garden. Retrieved on 11 April 2020 from https://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-activities/attract-birds-to-your-garden/

Earth Day Organisation. (2020). Earth Day facts. Retrieved 5 April 2020 from https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/

Everitt, A. (2020). Toilet paper roll bird feeder – Juggling with kids. Retrieved 5 April 2020 from https://jugglingwithkids.com/2012/02/toilet-paper-roll-bird-feeder.html

Forest and Bird New Zealand Te Reo O Te Taiao. (May 2018). How to feed native birds in your garden. Retrieved on 11 April 2020 from https://www.forestandbird.org.nz/resources/feeding-native-birds-garden

Outdoor Classroom. (2020). Lesson ideas – Outdoor learning day. Retrieved 4 April 2020 from https://outdoorclassroomday.com/resources/lesson-ideas/


Rachel Williamson-Dean

Rachel Williamson-Dean is an experienced secondary school teacher, who has lived and taught in North America, the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. She has a Master of Public and Population Health Degree (MPH – Dist) and a PhD in Health Education. Over the past ten years Rachel has worked with students and school leaders across New Zealand, including leading the digital literacy programme, The Summer Learning Journey, for which she received the NEXT Woman of the Year in Education 2018 award. 

By Rachel Williamson-Dean

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