This manual describes
methods of observations of the nesting life of birds with the example of birds that settle
in artificial nesting places. The manual reviews the organization of observations over the
stages of nesting life, including: nest building, laying and incubation of eggs, hatching
of nestlings, parents’ care and feeding of nestlings.
This field study has instructional video
featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video
illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the
task including reporting the results.
The nesting life of birds is one of the most fascinating topics for observation
in nature. If a naturalist comes into the forest in May or June, he or she will have a lot
of material even if observations are to be carried out in the same place every day.
Stationary observations are more preferable than route observations in this
case. During the breeding period, each bird acts as though it is tied to the certain
place, and if the observer has some experience, this will give an opportunity to learn
birds gradually and observe some individuals in the course of several weeks, to keep an
eye on the fate of their nests and broods. Using such methods, it is possible to reveal
individual differences in birds’ behavior and to determine the degree of their ecological
This educational session provides for short-term, not long-term observations of
one of the stages of the nesting life of birds – depending on the nesting stage when
studies are carried out. It is recommended to organize observations of several nests of
different bird species. The main task is to find nests that can be easily observed. As the
search for nests of birds that nest in open spaces, especially Passeriformes, is
quite laborious and highly-skilled work, so it is better to organize observations of
birds’ nests that are made in artificial nesting places, hung out on trees in the course
of one of the previous lessons in the given series (spring, Lesson #1).
The plan and procedure for organizing studies depends on the nesting stage, when
observations are to take place. This manual will start with a description of general rules
for the organization of students’ observations of birds’ nests. Then it will review
the different stages in birds’ nesting life with specific procedures for organizing and
registering observation data as well as procedures for material processing.
General information on the organization of nest observations
Birds live in a nesting place for about a month and a half, and their life is quite
tense during this period. All stages in their nesting life – nest building, coupling,
egg laying, egg incubation, and the feeding of nestlings – occur while surrounded by
numerous enemies, which hunt not only for eggs and nestlings, but for the birds
sitting in the nests. Each species of birds has its own enemies and methods of defense.
Enemies of small forest birds, which are the most dangerous for them, include crows,
magpies, jays, hawks as well as small animals such as marten, fox and snakes.
The presence of numerous enemies determines the different adaptations aimed at defending
the birds themselves and their offspring. First, it is the construction of the nest in
a relatively secluded and inaccessible place; second, different behavioral actions near
the nest or nestlings, which are intended to be imperceptible, to trick the enemy or to
take them away from the nest. While flying to the nest, birds always watch the situation
and they usually perform evasive and decoy movements typical for each species.
Nevertheless, surface and winged enemies annually destroy approximately 40% of all the
The most important task for researchers in the course of arranging nest
observations is not to disturb the delicate balance between birds and their enemies.
Starting from this task, it is recommended to comply with the following rules in
the course of studies according to the given theme in educational purposes: 1) Choose a
common (abundant), not rare bird species in the area under study as objects for
observations; 2) Do not choose a bird species that nest on the ground as the object of
studies, (search for such nests usually ends up with the fact that the nest is simply
stepped on; moreover, it is quite difficult to conduct observations of such nests); 3)
While looking for nests, do not disturb the natural vegetation the vicinity of the nest;
This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the
Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:
It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field
Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set.
These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers.
The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference.
The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set
write a request to the authors (in a free form).
Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on
Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:
We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach.
The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals.
The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.
You can also download the Demo Disc from ecosystema.ru/eng/eftm/CD_Demo.iso.
This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso").
You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way.
You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.
Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive