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Bird Study Merit Badge Activity Planner

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"As Scoutmaster for the Roadkill Patrol, I live next to a large urban park & lake which was great for our Trail to First Class nature hikes. But it was also one of the top "birding" areas in the region. Early one Saturday morning our patrol hiked over there and quickly identified several dozen species of birdlife. It was an awesome outdoor fieldtrip." This is a good activity for any scout patrol involved with an Audubon Eagle Scout Service Project too.
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'Patrol Leader Merit Badge Planning Guide for the Bird Study Merit Badge

*** Activities for the Youth Lead Patrol ***

Exploring Bird Study can be a fascinating youth adventure when done right. Here are a few tips to help the patrol leader get started.

  • Scouts may never add or subtract from the actual merit badge requirements
  • This Planner is only a suggestion of different ideas to make working this Merit Badge both fun and easy.
  • While doing the Worksheet is not a requirement for earning this badge, in many cases it can help you learn key concepts and track your progress.
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A. Make Your Plan

  1. Merit Badge Activity Planning Tips - 14 tips for a successful patrol activity. Read carefully before you start your plan!
  2. Share Your Plan - Meet ahead of time with your patrol, scout leaders, parents and especially with the Merit Badge Counselor. Make changes to the plan as needed.
  3. Prepare Activity Flyer - Keep your fellow scouts informed - events, activities, pre-requisites and more.
Patrol Activity GREAT Awesome MB to work as a patrol / Max Size 12 scouts
Virtual Field Trip GREAT Requires field observation - but all activities can be done individually
Family Activity GREAT Build home bird exhibit and field trip as a family
Service Activity GREAT Required. Great for Eagle Scout Service Project.
S.T.E.M. Activity GREAT Get the bird identification App for your device. Environmental Science.
Field Trip GREAT Pick your location carefully!
Duty-to-God POOR N/A
MB Day FAIR Pre-requisites #2 & #9. Best if done in good birding location.
Overnighter GREAT Pick your location carefully! Many camping locations available.
Summer Camp GREAT Best if done in good birding location.


Online Resources

B. Introduction Meeting

Most merit badge activities do best to have a "introduction" meeting where the patrol can discuss how to get started and to plan out their field trips. Send out the activity flyer in advance to use as an meeting agenda. Your scouts will then know what to expect.

Bird Study is a classic example of a patrol sized activity. When you have too few scouts it is hard to finish the projects, and if you have too many scouts then there is not enough space or equipment and many end up just standing around. But for the typical patrol (4-10 scouts) you should find that there is plenty for everyone to become fully immersed in the activity and have fun.

News Flash

C. Homework / Prerequisites

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Assign one or more requirements that the scout can do at home, perhaps as a family activity.

Build Backyard Bird Unit

Note: This could be a great backyard family activity. If your family does not have an appropriate backyard, discuss with your SM or MBC on some appropriate alternative locations. Note: many there are many Eagle Scout Service Projects that include adding landscaping habitat that is appropriate for this.

Req #9: Do ONE of the following. For the option you choose, describe what birds you hope to attract, and why.
a. Build a bird feeder and put it in an appropriate place in your yard or another location.
b. Build a birdbath and put it in an appropriate place.
c. Build a backyard sanctuary for birds by planting trees and shrubs for food and cover.

Bird Sketch Activity

Req #2. Show that you are familiar with the terms used to describe birds by sketching or tracing a perched bird and then labeling 15 different parts of the bird. Sketch or trace an extended wing and label six types of wing feathers.

D. Study Hall Patrol Night

While some scouts may be adept at self-study, others may do better in a small group setting and taking notes on worksheets. Make an agenda. You can facilitate discussion by asking them why each of the principles introduced here would be relevant. Schedule one or more patrol meetings to work this merit badge.

Pre-Open Gathering Activity

A gathering activity before the official meeting start is a great way to set a fun theme for the meeting.

  • Picture Game - Name that Bird. ("Open Book Quiz" - Download the phone app or use a field guide for help)
  • Make Bird imitations

MBC Discussion Group

  • Req #1: Discussion - Birds and the Eco-system
  • Req #2: Review - Sketch of Birds
  • Req #3: Discussion - Binocular care
  • Req #4: Demonstration/Quiz - Bird Field Guide (See resources)
  • Req #6: Discussion - How birds adapt to their environment
  • Req #10: Discussion - Endangered Bird Species
  • Req #11: Discussion - Careers in Birding


Discussion Resources

  • Birds of North America: Spot the silhouette of a Northern Goshawk in flight. Identify the raucous call of the Red-winged Blackbird. Discover the secret of picking out a Chipping Sparrow from its look-alike cousins. It's simple with this classic field guide, Birds of North America, a treasured favorite among amateur bird lovers and exacting professionals
  • Did you know - there is now a phone app for identifying birds?

Field Trip Preparation Activity

See Req #5 below - each scout should prepare his field notebook ahead of time.

E. Field Trip

A related field trip with the MBC will be a great time to do the second half of this merit badge activity:


Birding Field Trip

For best success on this part of the merit badge plan a field trip or campout to location notable for its variety of bird life. Your MBC should have some good suggestions. Identify 20 species of birds. For five of those - identify their bird songs. One good field trip should easily cover Req #5, 7 & #8a.

Req #5: Identify 20 Birds. Observe and be able to identify at least 20 species of wild birds. Prepare a field notebook, making a separate entry for each species, and record the following information from your field observations and other references.

  • Note the date and time.
  • Note the location and habitat.
  • Describe the bird's main feeding habitat and list two types of food that the bird is likely to eat.
  • Note whether the bird is a migrant or a summer, winter, or year-round resident of your area.

Req #7: Bird Songs. Explain the function of a bird's song. Be able to identify five of the 20 species in your field notebook by song or call alone. For each of these five species enter a description of the song or call, and note the behavior of the bird making the sound. Note why you think the bird was making the call or song that you heard.

Req #8: Do ONE of the following:
Req 8a: Field Trip.
Go on a field trip with a local club or with others who are knowledgeable about birds in your area.
1) Keep a list or fill out a checklist of all the birds your group observed during the field trip.
2) Tell your counselor which birds your group saw and why some species were common and some were present in small numbers.
3) Tell your counselor what makes the area you visited good for finding birds.

F. Extra Credit

While none of these are actual requirements for this merit badge - they are terrific opportunities to show Scout Spirit, Do A Good Turn Daily and to have FUN!

  1. Activity Reflection: Use this meeting for scouts to ask questions and to reflect on what they gained personally from this adventure. You can also have a discussion on what future opportunities are here.
  2. Court of Honor Exhibit: Pictures, handiwork and other memorabilia from this adventure will make for a great presentation at the next Scout Troop Court of Honor.

Birding Service Projects

Many fine Eagle Scout Service Projects have been done that would satisfy several of the requirements for this merit badge.

Related Merit Badges

Sometimes it is easier by doing two or more merit badges together as a joint activity:

See Also

  • 9 Things to Know about Merit Badges - BoysLife.org - There are more than 135 merit badges. By earning them, you can learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Here’s how to get the most out of your merit badge experience.