Garden Birds is a citizen science observatory founded jointly with the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO - Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux). Its objective is to identify and count the birds present in the courtyard of your institution, public park, garden or even a balcony!
While enjoying the observation of nature with your pupils, you are contributing to a research programme aimed at studying the effects of climate, urbanization, and agricultural practices on the diversity of common birds. By participating, you help scientists understand when and why birds visit gardens.
You can participate once or on a regular basis, there is no commitment. It is not necessary to know the birds beforehand: the tools in this booklet make it easy to identify common species. All your observations are important, we’re counting on you!
Have a look on the presentation video:
Choose your observation zone. The observation must be done in a clearly delimited area, within which you are sure to see, and therefore recognize, all the birds. This could be part of your establishment’s courtyard or terrace, a town square or a well-defined area of a public park. In winter, you can also install bird feeders to make it easier to observe the birds.
Identify and count the birds for a 15-minute period. Firstly, record the date of your survey and the start and end time of the observation period, knowing that you must observe the birds for 15 minutes. During this time, note the maximum number of birds for each species observed for the period.
Repeat your observations as often as possible. This observatory operates all year round, you can try to monitor the bird populations in your establishment by counting them daily, once a month, or even sporadically! By repeating your counts, you can, for example, assess the impact of the seasons on the birds. Finally, you should know that the more you participate, the more useful your information will be to our researchers!
Let’s begin by having a look on these documents:
- The participant's kit which provides all the tools you will need to be part of this journey, such as the (printable!) identification key,
- The observatory's poster (fichier volumineux, le chargement peut être long)
- A poster designed by the LPO
When to participate?
You can observe the birds and send us your data throughout the year. In winter, observation will be easier if you put out a bird feeder.
What should I do before?
Prepare your pupils! During class sessions, train them in using the identification key properly - why not with the help of pictures. You can also use the different quizzes available on our website. Outside, birds move really fast. We advise you to ask your pupils to keep a ‘mental picture’ of the bird before using the identification key (size? color? any distinctive features?).
Materials you’ll need (by group of 3-4 pupils)
- Feeders with seeds or fat balls (optional).
Per group of 3-4 pupils:
- The participant’s kit,
- A camera (optional),
- Binoculars (optional).
A few precisions
Why bird-watch for 15 minutes?
The protocol asks that you observe the birds over a 15-minute period so that comparisons can be made using the data collected (if the observation time is not the same, the data are difficult to compare). 15 minutes is a reasonable length of time for students while giving researchers a good overview of bird diversity.
Which birds should be counted?
Count only the birds in the courtyard (or park, garden etc.) and not those flying over it! But.... There are exceptions to this rule. For instance, you can count insectivores (swallows or swifts, for example) and birds of prey (European sparrowhawk...) that are hunting over your observation site. Finally, if you observe a species that is not listed on the field sheet, you can take it into account and report it in the "Notes" section.
What does it mean to "count the maximum number of individuals"?
During your observations, record the maximum number of individuals of each species observed during the same period. For example, if you count 5 blue tits, then 7, then 4 again, you will only note 7 and not 16 (5+7+4) because you have seen a maximum of 7 blue tits at the same time and some may have come twice.
Few information about species’ determination
In France, there are more than 500 species of birds. Some of them are really common and frequent, others are more rare. This protocol aims to focus on 52 species only, actually the most likely to be found next to dwellings. The participant’s kit provides an identification key that will help you and your pupils to recognize and name the different species.
Sending your observations
It will take only a few minutes! Log in and enter your data on vigienature-ecole.fr. Please, let us know if you did not see any individuals: this is important information for our researchers! Do not forget to provide some context, such as the type of environment (urban, rural?) or the installation of feeders. All these data are likely to explain the birds’ distribution over time and space (observation area). This step, yet mandatory, will be asked only once for each area. Please find here all the information you will need to collect prior to the class session.
You may find that questions and hypotheses concerning the distribution of living beings arise from your observations (are there as many birds in the city as there are in the countryside? Does the use of pesticides have consequences on snails, etc.). The data positioning tools included in the participation report, which is sent at the end of the school year to all who are registered on the website, provides answers to some of these questions. The graphics included in the report position the observations made in a given establishment in relation to the data collected as a whole. For example, you will learn whether observing 4 species of snails in an establishment is a sign of healthy or poor biodiversity. Explanations are provided to help you interpret the results. These documents encourage your pupils to consider which actions could be taken to promote biodiversity in the courtyard or playground (installation of feeders, setting aside plots of land, etc.). By repeating the observations, you will be able to monitor the impact of these actions over time.
You can also process the data you’ve collected in other ways. For example, you can create graphics representing the species present in different areas of the establishment. These graphics allow pupils to visualize in a simple manner that there is a significant difference between two areas of the schoolyard. They can then propose hypotheses to explain the population differences (abiotic factors such as humidity, temperature for example).
You can also produce graphs showing the evolution of the number of species present seasonally. They allow you to follow changes in the number of individuals over the course of the year (for example, for the notion of bird migration). It is also possible to produce such graphs over several years by accumulating the numbers recorded month by month.
Many other illustrations are possible. For example, pupils can be asked to situate their data on an aerial photo of the school. They can then offer explanations for possible differences in the occupation of the various areas of the school.
Finally, you will find a wide range of educational activities on our website. Some of them are suggestions for introducing this activity but others take it a step further. For example, we have developed ways for your pupils to learn how to analyze data in the manner of an ecological researcher, or for them to think about actions to be taken within their establishments to promote biodiversity.
Protocole oiseaux : Birds of gardens
Resources availableHere are the resources associated with this observatory.
TitreThe participation bookletDescriptionThis document contains a precise description of the protocol, a field sheet and the identification tools.
TitreQuizDescriptionto practice identification
TitreClé de déterminationDescriptionen ligne des oiseaux des jardins
TitreFiche descriptionDescriptionce document précise les informations demandées lors de la création de votre zone d'observation
TitreThe posterDescriptionof the observatory
Pedagogical tipsHere are some suggestions for activities that can help you integrate this observatory to your educational progress.
TitreCreating a weather station in ArduinoDescriptionCycle 4 - High SchoolTexte
In this activity, we suggest that you and your technology colleague enable your pupils to make sensors that allow them to measure the environment (temperature, humidity, etc.).
TitreHypothesisDescriptionCycles 3 and 4 - High SchoolTexte
In this game the pupils have to design a data collection protocol. The protocol chosen for the duration of the game will influence the amount of data collected, its quality and therefore the scientific results!
TitreBird abundance in the Pas-de-Calais and Gironde over the seasonsDescriptionCycle 4 - High SchoolTexte
In this activity, we will observe the evolution of the populations of the most familiar birds in our gardens in the north and south of France between the years 2014 and 2015.
TitrePromoting biodiversity in your institutionDescriptionCycles 2, 3 and 4 -High SchoolTexte
Thanks to different action proposals, we will see how to promote biodiversity within your school. The Vigie-Nature School protocols will allow us to monitor the impact of these actions on biodiversity.
TitreLand Art activityDescriptionCycles 2 and 3Texte
With Vigie Nature School, field trips allow students to work on science but also on plastic art with Land Art. This approach will contribute to raising awareness of biodiversity by allowing them to observe and manipulate it.
TitreThe diversity of birds in the neighbourhood in winterDescriptionCycles 2 to 4Texte
How can we better see and identify the birds in the settlement?
TitreAnalysing dataDescriptionCycle 4 and High SchoolTexte
With Vigie-Nature School, you collect data on biodiversity in your school. This data will be useful to researchers, but you can also use it in class. We suggest several ways to do this.
TitreCreate a determination keyDescriptionFrom CP to TerminaleTexte
This tutorial will show you how to create a simple determination key with the OpenKeys software. You can, for example, create keys referencing only the species present in your region.