To take part in this program, you will need to become
an Idaho Nature Probe member. Membership is free, providing you with
your own password that allows you to access your data, compare it with
similar experiments throughout Idaho, and allows us to keep track of
repeat records from the same location.
Will the type of food
offered at a feeder influence the number of birds using the feeder?
The following information will provide you with the steps for
setting up your food type experiment.
Observe and gather background material
Bird feeder background
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Think of a question
When scientists see something they don't understand, they ask
questions. Why?, What if? What is causing this to happen?
You might have observed different birds eating different types of
foods. In the background material you have gathered, you might
have read about the foods that certain species of birds prefer.
Did these descriptions make you wonder if there is one type of
food that will be eaten by the greatest number of birds?
Note: Because we will be comparing
our results with other schools, choose from from the following:
Predict answer (hypothesize)
is the scientist's best guess as to the answer to a question based
on observation, research, and careful thinking. To make
your hypothesis, you need to remember the birds you have observed
and the background material you have read.
Remember that a hypothesis needs to meet the
It must be a statement.
It must be testable. You must be able to
prove your hypothesis true or false by performing an experiment.
And remember, sometimes the experiment will support
your hypothesis and sometimes it will not. There are no wrong
hypotheses, just added opportunities to learn!
Plan the experiment
Scientists plan experiments to test their hypothesis. It is
important to do the experiment several times to see that the results
remain the same. Scientists organize their experiments in several
steps that are like a recipe. This is a called an experimental
design or procedure. That way, if others repeat the experiment
the results should be the same. You will need to:
List materials needed to complete your experiment.
You will probably need:
At least three identical bird feeders. You can decide
the type you think will work the best. You may decide to
simply scatter the food on the ground. Note: Nature Probe has feeders for loan to registered
schools upon request, depending upon availability. Contact Alana
Three types of bird food. Choose three foods
from the following list:
Black-oil sunflower seeds
Striped sunflower seeds
Packaged bird seed
Thistle Seed (sometimes called niger)
Each feeder you use should contain only one type
of food, including the food you selected as the "preferred food"
from your hypothesis.
Measuring cup or container. Food preferences
will be compared by measuring the volume of food consumed.
Re-sealable plastic bags to transport and store
A data sheet to record information.
Determine the locations where the bird feeder(s)
will be placed. They will need to be placed in similar locations.
Decide what time (or times) of day you will
fill your feeders and how long you will leave the food in the
feeders before collecting it for measuring.
Decide on the variables. Variables may
include the location of the feeder, what time of day you will
observe the feeder, or
the type of bird food you use. Because scientists
change only one variable in each experiment, the changeable
variable in this experiment will be the type of bird food.
The other variables should all remain the same.
Write down the steps of your experiment including
your materials, your procedure and your variables. You may
want to follow these steps:
Place feeders in the location you have chosen.
Choose a type of bird food to be placed in each
feeder. Make sure to include the "preferred food" from your
Place measured bird seed in each feeder.
Make sure you fill your feeder at the same time every day.
Leave the bird feed in the feeders for the same
amount of time every day.
After the set amount of time, collect the
left-over seed from each feeder. Make sure to keep the
leftovers from each feeder in a separate bag and label the bag.
Measure the amount of leftover food from each
session. (beginning volume - ending volume = amount of
Record your findings.
Fill each bag with the same amount of food and
repeat the experiment.
Collect and record data
data (information) and measure results. They record and chart
their data to support predictions and draw conclusions. A data
sheet might look like this:
(Click to enlarge or download Word file)
Once you have looked at the
data from the experiment, you can draw conclusions. You can ask
yourself questions such as, "What do the results tell me? Did my
experiment support my hypothesis?" These could be as simple as "yes"
the hypothesis was supported, or "no" the hypothesis was not
If your hypothesis was not supported, you need to
think about what might have gone wrong. Maybe your hypothesis
was incorrect and you need to make further observations and conduct
more research (return to Step 1). Or
maybe your experiment design needs some reworking (return to Step
4). Don't be discouraged! The Scientific Method is a
cycle that helps us better understand the world around
Submit results to Idaho Nature Probe
You will need
to submit the following data.
School latitude and longitude (if known)
Materials used in your experiment (Type of feeder,
type of food, etc.)
Steps followed (your experiment design)
Number of days the experiment was conducted
Food types used in experiment
Total food consumed by type
Food preferred in feeders
Did your experiment support your hypothesis?
See Results from Other
ESER Program |
Idaho Fish and Game |
Wildlife Conservation Society