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  • Aotearoa New Zealand is famous for its quirky native birds. Ngā manu, their unique adaptations and the threats they face are common classroom topics. But what about the birds we are likely to encounter in our home or school gardens? What do we know about them and what can they tell us?

    Rights: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

    Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey

    Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research runs an annual survey of garden birds. The data collected from citizen scientists helps researchers understand how birds are coping with environmental challenges

    Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey is a citizen science project that has been running since 2007. It occurs in late June when some of our native forest birds come to our gardens looking for food and shelter.

    Participants use illustrated tally sheets in te reo Māori or English to record birds in their local area. Schools can choose to do the survey in 10-minute rotations over the span of an hour using a simplified tally sheet (10 birds) or do the standard survey monitoring up to 22 bird species over 60 minutes.

    The survey is organised by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. Scientists take the substantial amount of collected data, run it through their supercomputers and use it to create easy-to-read infographics for the public to use. The information also helps experts build long-term biodiversity datasets to see how birds are coping with environmental challenges. Our webinar with researchers Dr Angela Brandt and Dr Gradon Diprose discusses the importance of the survey and what happens to the results.

    Birds: Structure, function and adaptation

    This interactive explores the science concepts that underpin knowledge about birds’ physical features and how they help birds live in their environment.

    Making use of local encounters

    Taking the time to observe the birds who visit our shared spaces provides authentic learning opportunities. Taking part in the survey is an ideal context for:

    • exploring key science concepts – habitats, adaptations and classification
    • developing science capabilities – gather and interpret data, critique evidence and interpret representations
    • exploring aspects about how science works – data collection and reliability
    • taking action – we cannot look after our birds unless we know what’s in our local area.

    Suddenly you realise your garden is a hotspot for dining out, romance, squabbling – quite human behaviours. If these were your neighbours, you’d introduce yourselves, and that starts with names.

    Te Radar, Garden Bird Survey Have you got what it takes? video series

    Resources to support learning – Garden Bird Survey

    The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey website has numerous resources. Resources for children & teachers has instructional videos for using the survey with years 1–8 and for years 9 and up, downloadable full-colour resources in te reo Māori and English, ideas on how and where to do the survey and children’s activities – a colouring competition, bird mask templates and bird colouring sheets.

    This section also features two videos – How big is that bird? The Chocolate Fish Index and Where do birds feed? Gardens are like layer cakes – that help ākonga understand bird sizes and habitats. Both are examples of how models can be used to explain an idea or concept.

    Bird identification tools provide images, text and bird calls. Survey results include key findings from annual surveys and infographics about increases and declines of native and introduced species over 5-year and 10-year periods.

    Rights: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

    Garden birds – bilingual names

    A poster for the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey with the names of common birds in te reo Māori and English.

    Download a PDF version here.

    Resources to support learning – Science Learning Hub Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao

    The Hub also has an extensive range of resources.

    The article Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa – resources for kura curates resources created for kura to inspire, enlighten and extend learning for tamariki. The resources are in English and te reo Māori.

    For educators working in years 3–8, Birds in my backyard is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource. It’s an easy way to introduce and incorporate the Garden Bird Survey into your programme. The resource is available as a Word document that you can customise to meet learner needs.

    These curations of Hub resources feature birds:

    Rights: Public domain

    Pīwakawaka – fantail

    The pīwakawaka is a native bird that visits gardens to feed on insects. It is easily identifiable by its white eyebrows, fan-shaped tail and darting flight pattern.

    Related content

    The webinar Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey shares how students can be involved in New Zealand's longest running citizen science project.

    The Ministry of Education’s Connected series includes the following articles and teacher support material: The takeaway table, What Alice saw, Keep your cat inside and Bringing back the birdsong.

    To see all of our bird related articles and activities, browse through the wide range of content under our birds topic.

    Citizen science

    Find out more about the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey citzen science project.

    There are also other bird related citizen projects.

    Participate in eBird to log bird sighting data year round and compare data from around the world, sitting within this global site is the New Zealand Bird Atlas. The iNaturalist online citizen science project uses Seek, a species identification app.

    Activity ideas

    The Garden Bird Survey website contains previous years’ infographics. This type of visual representation has literacy components that students may need support to understand. Using infographics helps students understand the ways in which infographics present information. It also includes a simple framework for creating an infographic.

    Useful link

    You can find Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey resources here.

      Published 30 May 2023, Updated 17 June 2024 Referencing Hub articles
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