• The Boys' Club of New York

Bird Watching - BCNY Explores NYC

Subjects: Science, Physical Education & Art

Objective: Members will learn how to identify several birds using various physical


Program Goal: To provide a safe outdoor space for young men to explore, and develop their imaginations, creativity and independence when engaged in outdoor education. Creating a multitude of platforms for members to be able to experiment with their environment and the characteristics of their natural world while developing the 4C’s and applicable life skills. The outdoors is essential to the mental wellbeing and being in a natural outdoor environment can hugely contribute to reducing the stresses caused by our modern ways of life.

Skills: Members will gain a Connection with nature, Members will become Competent in using binocular & digital camera, Members will gain Confidence and to be able to talk

& discuss what they learned. Member Character-Richness will grow & be enhance after bird watching.

Materials Needed: Binocular, Digital Camera (Optional), Pencil, and Pad

Time Consideration:

  • Walking to Central Park: 20-25 minutes

  • Activity: 60-90 Minutes

Online Resources:

Software Resources: Smartphone app Merlin Bird ID.

Download PDF Version:

Download PDF • 12.17MB


Intro to Bird Watching: Getting Started

Birdwatching is a great excuse to get out into the great outdoors. Wherever you go, you will see birds. On our city streets, in the parks and gardens, in farmland, forests and wetlands, in the mountains, at the beach and even out in the open ocean they are everywhere. One of the great aspects of birding is that different types (or species) of birds live in different areas and habitats, so it is not difficult to see a whole variety of different birds. Why not give it a go? You may become enthralled with the simple joy of birdwatching.

Going birdwatching is a great way to get out into nature, to keep in touch with the awe and mystery of the natural world. While you are birding you are also getting fresh air, exercise, and learning more about the various areas you visit. Seeing the wildflowers, trees, shrubs, vines, butterflies and other critters that share the birds’ environment, helps you to appreciate how all the living parts fit into the whole scheme of things.

Tracking the seasonal movements of birds keeps you in touch with the passing seasons. The annual cycle, the mysteries of spring and autumn migration, birds are pre-eminent harbingers of spring and fall and subtly mark the passage of time.

Birding can contribute positively to your feelings of mastery and self esteem. These feelings will increase as you get better at it. While identifying birds is very difficult in the beginning, as you practice and improve your observation skills and hand-to-eye coordination skills you will start to gain confidence and pride in your new found ability to take a number of clues and come up with a speedy and correct I.D.

Finally, amateur birdwatchers have contributed and continue to contribute much to the scientific knowledge of birds. Their input and personal observations when backed by notes, Christmas Counts, Breeding Bird Surveys, etc. help ornithologists and conservationists learn more about birds and the environment we all share and depend on.

Watching birds When you are starting out, it is best to become familiar with the birds that live in your garden, the local park, on walking routes and at holiday spots. In this way you will soon become aware of the range of common species associated with each site, seasonal changes through the year, the breeding residents, regular migrants and occasional visitors. With practice, you will begin to recognize different species, and eventually you will notice that each has its own way of life. By gradually expanding your horizons, and birdwatching in new places, you will see more and more different species.

Pre-Activity Questions

  1. What do you expect to learn from the bird watching lesson?

  2. How do you plan to connect with nature to make sure you get the most of this lesson?


Bird Identification Field Guide

Rock Pigeon

A common sight in cities around the world, Rock Pigeons crowd streets and public squares, living on discarded food and offerings of birdseed. In addition to the typical blue-gray bird with two dark wingbars, you'll often see flocks with plain, spotted, pale, or rusty-red birds in them. Introduced to North America from Europe in the early 1600s, city pigeons nest on buildings and window ledges. In the countryside they also nest on barns and grain towers, under bridges, and on natural cliffs.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


Canada Goose

The big, black-necked Canada Goose with its signature white chinstrap mark is a familiar and widespread bird of fields and parks. Thousands of “honkers” migrate north and south each year, filling the sky with long V-formations. But as lawns have proliferated, more and more of these grassland-adapted birds are staying put in urban and suburban areas year-round, where some people regard them as pests.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


House Sparrow

You can find House Sparrows most places where there are houses (or other buildings), and few places where there aren’t. Along with two other introduced species, the European Starling and the Rock Pigeon, these are some of our most common birds. Their constant presence outside our doors makes them easy to overlook, and their tendency to displace native birds from nest boxes causes some people to resent them. But House Sparrows, with their capacity to live so intimately with us, are just beneficiaries of our own success.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


European Starling

First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


American Herring Gull

Spiraling above a fishing boat or squabbling at a dock or parking lot, Herring Gulls are the quintessential gray-and-white, pink-legged "seagulls." They're the most familiar gulls of the North Atlantic and can be found across much of coastal North America in winter. A variety of plumages worn in their first four years can make identification tricky—so begin by learning to recognize their beefy size and shape.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


American Crow

American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything – typically earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit but also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?



If you’ve been hearing an endless string of 10 or 15 different birds singing outside your house, you might have a Northern Mockingbird in your yard. These slender-bodied gray birds apparently pour all their color into their personalities. They sing almost endlessly, even sometimes at night, and they flagrantly harass birds that intrude on their territories, flying slowly around them or prancing toward them, legs extended, flaunting their bright white wing patches.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


Red-winged Blackbird

One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. Their early and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?



The quintessential early bird, American Robins are common sights on lawns across North America, where you often see them tugging earthworms out of the ground. Robins are popular birds for their warm orange breast, cheery song, and early appearance at the end of winter. Though they’re familiar town and city birds, American Robins are at home in wilder areas, too, including mountain forests and Alaskan wilderness.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


Grey Catbird

If you’re convinced you’ll never be able to learn bird calls, start with the Gray Catbird. Once you’ve heard its catty mew you won’t forget it. Follow the sound into thickets and vine tangles and you’ll be rewarded by a somber gray bird with a black cap and bright rusty feathers under the tail. Gray Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


Northern Cardinal

The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


Blue Jay

This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

Did you see this bird? Yes or No?


Post-Activity Questions

  1. What characteristics did you use to identify the birds?

  2. What did you observe some of the birds doing? Please explain.

  3. How many different species of birds did you see today?

  4. What other wild life did you see today beside birds?

  5. Are there any birds that you saw today that wasn’t on the field guide list?

  6. What was your favorite of the day and why?

  7. If you could be a bird what bird would you be and why?

4Cs Questions

  1. How did bird watching enhance your connection with nature?

  2. How has bird watching enhance your character-richness?

  3. How confident do you feel about being able to ID certain birds? Please explain.

  4. Do you feel competent that you learn new skills? Please explain.


Otha Caldwell

My favorite NYC bird is the cardinal. Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

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