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Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2002

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Studies of the day activity of singing birdsThis manual is devoted to the description of the simplest procedure for bird census in the nesting season, based on the sounds of singing males. It contains the general scheme of field studies, including choice and laying of the census route, technique for bird census and methods to present the results of studies.

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.


Bird census is one of the most popular themes for students’ independent research in nature, especially in spring and summer. Singing birds can be found in any geographical region and in any biotope in spring. It is easier to count birds during this season, as most of them stick to set areas according to the location of their nesting grounds.

The singing of birds is also caused by nesting. Let us remember that singing is characteristic only of males as they perform a typical song characteristic of the species. In this way they indicate an occupied nesting place and, at the initial stage of nesting, they attract a female for reproduction. The presence of a singing male within the specific site does not mean that there definitely a nest. Many bird species are characterized by the fact that some males can spend the whole summer being single. At the same time, other species (or the same species but under different conditions, for instance, at other numbers or in the other part of the species range), one male can have several females (and, correspondingly, several nests) within its territory.

Students should also have in mind that the presence of a female and the nest (with eggs or nestlings) does not exclude a singing male: it continues to mark its territory until the end of the nesting season, until the moment when nestlings leave their parents’ nest.

Birdsong should not be mistaken with other sounds made by birds. They include calls (indication of presence), signals of danger and other signals of intersexual and parental communication.

Many skills are necessary to conduct a bird census during the nesting season in order to determine the density of bird populations. Students should be able to determine birds by their appearance and voices. They should also master the census procedure, i.e. they should know how to measure the distance covered, how to measure the width of the census band or distance to the bird, and finally they should be able to describe the biotopes where the census takes place. All these skills require mastery over a rather long period of time.

A procedure for a route bird census was already used in one of the fall lessons in the course of carrying out the research (lesson #7). The fall census was not difficult in terms of bird species determination due to relatively low species diversity. However, it was a rather full-value research in terms of bird census techniques and that will help us to conduct a census for the present lesson.

At the following spring lesson (Lesson #9) the task is even more complicated: students will be given the task to conduct a census based on singing males according to different procedures, including all the above-mentioned census techniques. Thus, this lesson widens the skills that students gained during the fall lesson, and it will prepare students for conducting the following research.

This research consists of repeated census of singing males belonging to different bird species that is carried out in the course of a day along a relatively short route in the vicinity of the school or field studies center. None of the following factors has principal significance: composition of vegetation along the route, length of the route, weather conditions and even qualifications of students in the course of the given research. It is important that censuses should be carried out along a strictly constant route and even by the same students.

Conducting censuses does not require special equipment, except for field glasses. Students will need only a field diary and a knowledge of birds’ voices (it is possible to use field guides).

Preparatory stage

The bird census for this lesson is similar to the previous route census in technique (Lesson #7, fall). The differences between the spring and the fall censuses are as follows:

Bird census carried out for this lesson is based only on signing males, which is why students should learn the songs only of the main bird species within your area, but not all the different voices of the birds (as it is more difficult). As the objectives of ...


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).

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

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 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.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple “Eye” Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of Birds’ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on Leaves’ Asymmetry

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