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Which birds live where, and why

The British Isles have a wealth of different bird species. Many of them stay with us all year round. Some are visitors, frequenting our islands for a season or two, or stopping on the way to some other destination.

The United Kingdom supports a wide variety of birds because it contains a range of different habitats. Some of the most common are farmland, heathland, upland, woodland, freshwater, estuary and marine.

In this exercise, students match six British bird species to the habitat where they would most expect to find them. You may choose to start with a discussion about the environmental conditions found in each habitat, and the advantages and disadvantages these would offer various species of bird.

Students should then use the physical features of each bird - bill, legs, feet, overall shape - to decide where each would be most at home. This exercise emphasises that birds are well adapted to their habitats. It is not an accident that different birds are found in different locations.

Curriculum links

England and Wales: Life Processes and Living Things - (5) (b) different habitats support different plants and animals)
Scotland: Understanding Living Things and the Processes of Life - Interactions of living things with their environment (responses of plants and animals to environmental stimuli)
Northern Ireland: Living Organisms and Life Processes - Environment (a) (find out that physical factors affect the distribution and type of living organisms found in a local habitat).

Resources 

Worksheet, pens, colouring pencils (if students want to colour in the pictures).

Age range 

11 - 13

Differentiation 

This activity is aimed at lower ability pupils, in years 7 and 8 (age 11 -13). Higher ability students may find 'Where do invertebrates live in our hedgerows?' more challenging. This looks at the adaptations of organisms to their habitats.

Answers to Student Sheet 1

Cormorant. Marine. Webbed feet, streamlined body for diving, saw-edged bill for catching and holding fish.

Partridge (grey and red-legged) Hedgerow. Short legs for foraging in undergrowth, stubby beak for eating seeds of grasses and weeds - also snails and caterpillars.

Robin. Hedgerow. Short legs for perching, small pointed beak for picking up and eating insects, larvae, fruits, seeds and earthworms. 

Spoonbill. Wetland. Long legs for wading through water, flattened bill for scooping up mud and filtering the water for water plants, small fish and water insects. 

Cirl bunting. Hedgerow and farmland. Short legs for perching, short stubby beak for cracking and eating weed and grass seeds, corn and wild fruits (only found in the south west of England).

Oystercatcher.Wetland. Long legs for wading through water, long, powerful bill for probing the mud for molluscs (mussels, cockles, periwinkles) and worms.

Extension activities

Students could research one habitat in greater depth, looking into the environmental conditions found there, and how other animals (mammals and invertebrates for example) are adapted to these conditions. Dramatic wall displays, posters or projects could be produced at the end. Students could then go on to design their own 'organism' which is uniquely adapted to that environment.