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Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2001

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial BehaviorThis manual describes a procedure for observing the territorial behavior of birds of mixed chickadee flocks during autumn and winter. The main of goal is to track the flockТs movement within the forest, mapping speed and direction on the flockТs route. This data is used for determining the feeding territory of this flock.

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 study of non-nesting biology of the birds forming mixed chickadee flocks in the forested zone is one of the favorite and most popular topics of individual research of young zoologists.

Mixed chickadee flocks potentially include 10-15 species of small-sized forest birds in Russian forests. They include: 1) chickadee flocks, 2) great tit, 3) blue tit, 4) crested tit, 5) coal tit. In the north wood zone the Siberian tit enters chickadee flocks, in the south and west in broad-leaved forests Ц the willow tit. Besides these basic species, some species, which do not belong to the chickadee family, are, however "full" members of chickadee flocks: 6) goldcrest, 7) bottle tit (long-tailed tit) 8) pika, and 9) nuthatch. Moreover, some "accompanying" species are also met in chickadee flocks: 10) great spotted woodpecker 11) lesser-spotted woodpecker (barred woodpecker) and, sometimes the three-toed woodpecker. Woodpeckers, as a rule, enter chickadee flocks for short periods of time Ц while the flock, migrating along the forest, passes through woodpeckerТs habitat.

Study of a chickadee flock's biology can be a very rewarding subject for the individual studies of schoolchildren. First, this study does not require great knowledge of all wintering bird species (as for example, a bird census) Ц only two or up to six species are to be determined, which are distinctive at long-term observations. Second, the procedure of observations is simple and does not require great attention or practical skills. Third, observations of chickadee flocks train student attention, teaching how to visually identify birds in nature. Fourth, while observing, pupils have a chance "to get closely introduced" to studied species, as long-term observed birds get used to people and begin to let them come nearer (up to 1 meter). Fifth, when studying the route of the flockТs migrations in the forest, pupils learn to work with a map, define distances on location and determine directional orientation. Last, observations of chickadee flocks use inherent Уhunting excitement."

All of the above allow teachers to use an elementary procedure of mapping a chickadee flock's territorial movement in the forest with children in nature. The goal of this study is to mark the habitat (territory) of a chickadee flock on the map and study the peculiarities of the flock's (as a formed group) behavior.

General Information

Period of observations

Observations of the biology of birds that form mixed chickadee flocks are possible during a large part of year - from July until March or April.

Only a short nesting period is excluded from the potential observation time. At this time, flocks get separated because birds form pairs. But when young birds first fly out at the end of the reproductive period, observations become possible again.

The best time for organizing an observation of a flock's territorial behavior is late autumn and winter (November - February). At this time, birds form groups that are consistent in structure and, which is very important, in constant territories. The size of these territories depends on forest type, and varies from 5 up to 50 hectares in central Russia. Therefore, observation of the flocks are not as laborious as in summer or early autumn, when birds migrate for long distances and the process of observation can turn out to be quite physically difficult as birds move in the forest with different speeds (either slowing down or accelerating). Besides, in early autumn not all flocks have their "constant" sites, (as, for example, in winter) and some attempts to trace a flock in the forest can be unsuccessful.

There is one more advantage of the fall/winter period; it is rather warm weather, therefore children can work with a map and record data without getting too cold (which is a greater problem in winter). Lack of deep snow cover also makes moving in the forest ...


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 to 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 УEyeФ 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 BirdsТ 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 LeavesТ Asymmetry

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© Ёкологический центр "Ёкосистема"Щ, ј.—. Ѕоголюбов / © Field Ecology Center "Ecosystem"Щ, Alexander Bogolyubov, 2001-2017