Bird Brains and the Great Backyard Bird Count

Some people have bird brains – not that they are small brains like birds but that they have birds on their brains.  These birders carry around with them a life list of birds spotted and note when and where.

I intended to give you some information about bird species and families but it turns out the subject is too complicated for my bird brain.  Birds are part of the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Chordata, and the class Aves.  This is obviously pretty far up the taxonomy, and there are 23 orders in the Aves class. The orders divide into 143 families and the families have 2,057 genera.  Finally, the genera divide into 9,702 species.  Beyond that, there are lots of habitat-specific sub-species.  See what I mean about it being too complicated!

St. Simons Island is a wonderful place for bird brains.  There are many kinds of birds here:  shorebirds, wading birds, ducks, woodpeckers, songbirds.  I am trying to get better at identifying birds but we are so many places and it seems like there are so many birds!  For instance, people ask me what the big white wading birds are we can see from the Fort.  They could be herons, ibises, egrets, cranes, rails, or storks.  All of them can be big white birds and I can’t really tell the difference.

Luke and Caitlyn ran the Bird Olympics
What kind of a beak could eat these?
How fast can you flap?
Your Off or your life!
Making binoculars
Owl supplies
Anatomy of a Bird
What kind of feet?
Another informative display
Good job Nell!

Saturday Fort Frederica participated in the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count.  There were lots of activities for adults and children.  Several knowledgeable birders led bird watch walks.  I picked their bird brains a little but I was busy with the children’s activities.  Fortunately I didn’t have to identify any birds in order to help out!

We had a special day of children’s activities designed and set up by volunteer Nell.  She is a retired teacher and did a great job of designing activities to appeal to all ages.  One of the favorites was “What kind of bird are you?”  The kids would stand against the wingspan of an eagle, with other bird wingspans marked on it, and find out what their “wingspan” qualified them to be.  Here is a picture of volunteer Luke doing it.

Me in my craft tent

I was in charge of the craft table, where Nell designed five different crafts.  The most popular, by far, was making an owl using a piece of cedar, some googly eyes, feathers, and markers.  The kids could also make a bird mask, “binoculars,” color a picture of a bird, or make a bird feeder.

We had over 200 children show up during the five hours of the Backyard Bird Count.  Of course, most of them brought their parents or other adults so it was a very busy day.  In addition, the rangers gave tours of Fort Frederica and the Heron Company drilled and fired muskets.  At one point the Heron Company halted in front of my craft tent and demanded my Off insect repellent.  I gave it to them quickly.  You don’t argue with people with guns!

Ranger Caitlyn, Nell, Randy, Ranger Ellen, and me at the end of the day

Our Backyard Bird Count was the perfect day for bird brains and for anyone else who wanted to participate in the fun.  Nell did a fantastic job of putting it together and we all enjoyed helping her with it.  At the end of the day we were tired, but we felt it was a job well done.


  • Kristine Moye

    I love the little owl craft – so cute! I have a mixed relationship with birds – they can be beautiful to look at, but I get freaked out when they start stalking… like when I’m trying to eat at the beach. Oh how I hate those people that feed the birds at the beach…ha 🙂 and ever tried to fish with the pelicans staring at you? There was a part of me that didn’t want to catch anything because I was afraid of being attacked for my catch! By the way, what kind of bird are you?

    • revkaren54

      People love wild animals but they also want to spoil it by feeding them which makes them less wild. I see it all the time in the National Parks. I was too busy to get my wingspan measured but I think I would be a robin or something plain that likes to sing in the morning!

  • Kristin Burkey

    Wow. You should didn’t miss out on the bird brain pun. I always thought I would like to be a snowy owl. Although the thought of vomiting up pellets disgusts me and I’m not much of a night owl maybe I should consider another bird, but i do love the snow. Maybe the brown pelican. It always intrigues me at the beach. I like sun, water, and fish…sounds like a good match and that way I can bother Kris while she’s fishing!

    • revkaren54

      Maybe you should be a penguin. Snow, sun, water, and fish!

    • Kristin Burkey

      What’s the point of being a bird if you can’t fly?

  • Cheryl

    This makes me laugh. We have traveled often together and I am the only one that wanted to go to the bird presentation. I have that book that I write in where & when I saw it. I love bird books and birds.

    • revkaren54

      You need to come visit us on St. Simons! I’ve never been into birding because I don’t see well enough. I only notice birds when they are moving and then I can’t identify them!

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