Birds 101

This page, being designed for teachers, should introduce you to the basics of birds including the different categories you could classify them by. Over time, we will add new sub-page for different species so that you can easily navigate to the species of your choice.

All information on these pages are subject knowledge related so you’re better prepared to address any questions during a related lesson or after-school project. Here are some ways to classify birds; these can be split further and there are many other groups, however, we have tried to simplify it for primary children.

Waterfowl
This group consists of Geese, Swans and Ducks as well a 2 other groups outside of the UK. Although they are more often associated with river and lakes, they can regularly be seen in school fields especially the Mallard and Canada Goose

Gulls
Gulls are part of the larger group known as shorebirds. For now we will be focussing on Gulls as they themselves consist of many species within the UK and can often be found on school fields or at least flying over. Another shorebird closely related to the Gull are Terns and these can also be spotted around school grounds, especially during their migratory season.

Gamebirds
This group include chickens, turkeys, peacocks and pheasants. They are a common site throughout the UK which is why they have been included even though many, included the Pheasant, aren’t actually native to the UK. 

Birds of Prey
This group are also known as ‘raptors’ and include Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Kites and Old World Vultures*. There is so much that could be said for every species in this group so we will leave it to the individual pages that will be subsequently added. 

Grebes
One of the lesser known groups being dealt with on this page. Grebes can easily be spotted on any large bodied water and the mating displays of the Great-Crested Grebe are truly fantastic.

Herons and Storks
Although only the Heron will realistically be spotted near school grounds, we felt it important to introduce its group rather than having a section for a single species. Relatives that breed in the UK include the Bittern and Spoonbill.

Swifts
Although Swifts appear to resemble Swallows and Martins from a distance, they are not actually closely related (see the Vulture explanation at the bottom of this page). Swifts are in fact closely related to Hummingbirds and can be seen above any school at some point during the summer.

Owls
These are nocturnal predatory birds and can be found all over the UK as well as on every continent other than Antarctica. They are well known for the pivotal necks and silent flight during hunting. There are many species in the UK including the Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Short-Eared Owl.

Perching birds
Perching birds are the largest group of birds. You may be wondering where certain ‘groups’ are on this page as we haven’t mentioned Crows, Sparrows, Finches etc. All of these birds are classified under ‘passerines’ or more commonly, perching birds. The distinguishing feature of this group are their feet; they have 4 toes, 3 pointing forward and 1 pointing backwards. 

Pigeon and Doves
Here we have a group that EVERY school will come across whether in the form of a feral pigeon or collard dove. This groups includes two good examples of extinction that can be used in the classroom; the Dodo and Passenger Pigeon.

Woodpeckers
Woodpeckers are also grouped with others although these don’t live in the UK.  Schools located near a woodland or even a copse have a good chance of spotting them.

THAT is a ‘simplified’ version?! – may have been your initial reaction to this list but it is important in science not to teach misconceptions so always check your subject knowledge if you aren’t sure or don’t be scared to admit you don’t know. I’ve personally noted that this admission in class enthuses children to find out for themselves which is a key skill in scientific enquiry.

To help us fast-track your favourite bird species into the pages vote below. You can add any species into the vote for us to see.

* Old World Vultures are those found in Africa, Europe and Asia whereas New World Vultures are those found in North and South America. These two groups are not directly related and share similarities due to convergent evolution.

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