Feathers are “For the Birds,” from Guest Blogger Kathy Stemke

We were lucky enough to discover Kathy Stemke while putting together the Sylvan Dell Blogroll. She is the webmaster for Education Tipster, where she discusses “movement activities, book reviews, and parenting tips that will help parents and teachers teach children phonics, math, writing, and science.” (In fact, OnlineEducation.net just named her site on of the 100 Best Blogs for Homeschooling Moms!) So for you, the reader, here is a fun guest post from this talented writer and educator, Kathy Stemke!

By Education Tipster’s Kathy Stemke

Have you ever seen a male peacock with his beautifully colored tail spread open like a big fan?  Did you ever wonder why he shakes his feathers and squawks?  He’s not just showing off.  He’s telling the other birds three important facts.  “I’m a peacock.  I’m strong, so don’t mess with me.  I want to mate with female peacocks.”  Birds use their colorful feathers to send these three types of messages to other birds….

Each species of bird wears its own special feathers.  That’s how they can tell each other apart.  When the bright sun reflects off the brilliant red feathers of a cardinal, the other birds never mistake him for a blue jay.  Even birds that don’t look colorful to us, do look colorful to other birds.  Birds have “super power” eyes!  They see colors that are invisible to people.  So birds that look dull brown to us, really have cool colors that all birds can see.

Birds display their own uniquely colored feathers to show other birds their boundaries.  They also have a special sound to tell others to stay away.  This is important to their survival.  If there are too many birds in an area, there won’t be enough food.  Many birds would starve.  If there are too few birds in an area, they won’t be able to find each other to mate and have baby birds.

With most birds, the female is a “plain Jane” with brown or gray markings, while the male is dressed for success like a “dapper Dan.”  The reason for this difference is job related.  The female needs to be camouflaged in the nest to feed and protect her young.  She blends into the background so her animal enemies can’t find her.  The male needs to stand out in a crowd to attract a female and win her love.  His fancy feathers prove to her that he will have strong and healthy baby birds. During mating season some bird’s feathers get even brighter.  Often the male bird does a special dance to convince the female that he is the best mate for her.  The female birds always pick the males with the brightest feathers.

Understanding why birds have brightly colored feathers helps us understand their world.  Their feathers are an important way for birds to talk to each other. 

For most birds, nest-building supplies are whatever nature has lying around — grass, wood, feathers, twigs, and fur. You can provide the birds in your neighborhood with nest building material by stuffing a mesh bag with things like pet fur, hay, colorful strands of cloth, colorful yarn cut into short lengths, hair from your brush, or feathers from an old down pillow.  Cut a few large holes in the sack so birds can poke around, and then hang it in a tree or near a feeder or birdbath so it will be noticed. Be on the lookout for birds visiting the sack.  Watch what trees they return to —you might even see your building materials being used in the birds’ nests.  Can you imagine your bright orange ribbon in a bird’s nest?

www.suite101.com/article.cfm/o rnithology_bird_biology/69402   
Sandy Cortright and Will Pokriots, Attracting Backyard Birds.  Sterling Publishing Co., New York, pg. 61
Lester L. Short, The Lives of Birds.  Henry Holt and Co., New York, pgs. 172,174,184.    

Kathy Stemke from Education Tipster About Kathy: Kathy Stemke has a passion for writing, the arts, and all things creative. As a freelance writer, Kathy has published several articles. She is a contributing editor for The National Writing for Children’s Center. Kathy’s first children’s e-book, “Moving Through All Seven Days,” is now available on Lulu.  Kathy’s second children’s book, “Trouble on Earth Day,” is slated to come out in the spring of 2010!  She recently signed a contract for her book titled, “Sh, Sh, Sh, Will the Baby Sleep?” Don’t forget to sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter, “MOVEMENT AND RHYTHM” on her blog.   You’ll find great teaching tips, movement activities, and children’s book reviews at http://educationtipster.blogspot.com.

Check out the following Sylvan Dell titles to learn more about birds:
Baby Owl’s Rescue
Henry the Impatient Heron
The Best Nest
Christmas Eve Blizzard
If You Were a Parrot
Whistling Wings

Baby Owl Rescue_COVER Henry Impatient Heron_COVER 2 Nest_120 Kersplatypus_cover_idea1


16 thoughts on “Feathers are “For the Birds,” from Guest Blogger Kathy Stemke

  1. This was a great article. The bird nest supply sack would be a great home school or craft project. Another thing birds love is to take a pine cone and spread peanut butter in its nooks & crannies. Then roll it in bird seed and hang it from a branch.
    J. Aday Kennedy
    the Differently-Abled Writer

  2. Interesting article.

    It reminds me of the time when I was five years old and my mother cut my hair out in the yard. A few months later we found a bird’s nest that was lined with my hair. What an incredible honor for a little girl!

  3. Excellent article, Kathy. Quick question for you, how do you convince birds to start using a birdhouse? My daughter made a birdhouse at the local bird sanctuary, but it’s been vacant all summer. Any tips?



  4. What a fun article. I especially like the activity of creating a nest-building bag for the birds. I love Janet Ann Collins’ comment about how the birds used her hair when she was a child. How wonderful!

  5. Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your question. I found this great site which might help you with attract the right birds to your daughter’s bird nest. There are so many factors involved the best thing to do is look through this site.


    Following are a few simple rules to remember when selecting placement locations for birdhouses:

    • Avoid placing birdhouses where cats, squirrels, or other natural predators will be a threat. In areas where predators may be a problem, supply adequate protection such as cat and squirrel guards.

    • Avoid placing birdhouses near noisy automotive traffic areas or sites subjected to constant human disturbances. More timid bird species will be discouraged from using the birdhouse.

    • Do not place birdhouses near feeders. Disturbance from other birds around feeders will discourage the use of birdhouses.

    • Ensure that birdhouses are placed at the correct height for attracting the desired species. Birdhouse placement must mimic the natural habitat requirements of desired species for optimum effectiveness.

    • Clear all obstructions from around the entrances to birdhouses to allow easy access to and from the nesting boxes.

    • Securely fasten birdhouses to trees, fence posts, or other structures to prevent wind damage. Use wire instead of twine to suspend hanging birdhouses and attach a piece of old garden hose or tire rubber under the wire to protect living tree limbs from bark damage. http://ces.uwyo.edu/PUBS/B995.pdf

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