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?
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.
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.
Resources to support learning – Science Learning Hub Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao
The Hub also has an extensive range of resources. 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:
- Birds – collection with notes on how you might use the resources.
- Bringing back the birdsong – collection to support the Connected article Bringing back the birdsong.
- Conserving native birds – introduction – resources on a wide range of native manu.
- Building Science Concepts: Birds – big science ideas about birds and their structure, function and adaptations.
- If you are new to citizen science projects, the article Planning for your students to be citizen scientists has great advice for using online citizen science platforms like the Garden Bird Survey.
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.
To see all of our bird related articles and activities, browse through the wide range of content under our birds topic.
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.
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.
You can find Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey resources here.