Field Sketching Birds
Source:Adapted from The Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve, local schools pack
- To improve observational and recording skills
- To focus in on the key identifying features of different birds
You will need
- sketch books or paper
- easily observed birds!
- bird field guides or access to the web
Did you know?It is not necessary to be a good artist to make good field sketches of birds! Coastal and wetland areas are good places for seeing a variety of interesting and unusual birds, for example at the Montrose basin, Duddingston Loch, Tentsmuir Point National Nature Reserve, Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, Wigtown Bay and Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. Some sites will have viewing facilities for watching birds and many will have reserve staff who can help with this activity. They may also be able to provide binoculars.
Before the ActivityExplain to the pupils that they do not need to be good artists to make excellent field sketches of birds. Start with a small oval for the head and a large oval for the body. Pick out the obvious colour patches and draw in the outline and label with the colour. For example, for a blue tit, you might draw a patch on the top of the head and label it 'blue' and a large belly patch and label it 'yellow'. The beaks, feet and tail can be drawn separately if this is easier. Get them to practice the sketching technique using posters or photographs of common birds, and any that they are likely to see when out on the trip.
The activityTake the children to an area where they can sit quietly and have a good chance of seeing birds - perhaps a viewing hide on a loch or estuary, close to a garden bird table or in an area of open woodland in the spring or summer. Explain that you want the pupils to make sketches of real birds and to try and identify the birds from their sketches and notes. Get the children to make quick sketches of several different kinds of birds, using the technique they have already practiced. Remind them to draw the head and body first and add in notes about the colours and then to add in sketches of the beak, feet and legs and tail. If possible they could also add notes about the noise the bird makes, the way it walks or flies and other aspects of its behaviour. Later on they can use field guides or web pages to identify the birds from their sketches and notes.
Suggested Follow up
Set up a bird table where it can be viewed from the classroom window, and record the birds which visit each month. Try different kinds of bird food and different kinds of feeders to attract different kinds of birds. Take part in RSPB's annual Big Schools Bird Watch
Ask the children to choose a favourite bird from the ones they have
sketched or have seen locally. Get them to research the bird to find
out if it is resident or migratory. Are there any clues from its feet
or its beak about where it feeds or what it likes to eat?. What kind of
places does it choose for a nest and why? Is it easy to tell male
and female birds apart?
The Animal Detectives activity in this section
Additional InformationThe activity Birds, Bills & Behavioursin the Sea, Shore and Sand section
The RSPB website has a guide to all the bird species the children are likely to see - includes photos, information and sound recordings
Many wildlife and conservation organisation produce posters and photographs of birds. Ask around to find out what is currently available. They may be free for schools.
Big Schools Bird Watch
Curriculum LinksExpressive arts - main
Science - linked