Birds are among the most fascinating creatures on Earth. Many are beautifully colored. Others are accomplished singers. Many of the most important discoveries about birds and how they live have been made by amateur birders. In pursuing this hobby, a Scout might someday make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the natural world.


  1. Explain the need for bird study and why birds are useful indicators of the quality of the environment.
  2. Show that you are familiar with the terms used to describe birds by sketching or tracing a perched bird and then labeling 15 different parts of the bird. Sketch or trace an extended wing and label six types of wing feathers.
  3. Demonstrate that you know how to properly use and care for binoculars.
    1. Explain what the specification numbers on the binoculars mean.
    2. Show how to adjust the eyepiece and how to focus for proper viewing.
    3. Show how to properly care for and clean the lenses.
  4. Demonstrate that you know how to use a bird field guide. Show your counselor that you are able to understand a range map by locating in the book and pointing out the wintering range, the breeding range, and/or the year-round range of one species of each of the following types of birds:
    1. seabird
    2. plover
    3. falcon or hawk
    4. warbler or vireo
    5. heron or egret
    6. sparrow
    7. nonnative bird (introduced to North America from a foreign country since 1800)
  5. Observe and be able to identify at least 20 species of wild birds. Prepare a field notebook, making a separate entry for each species, and record the following information from your field observations and other references.
    • Note the date and time.
    • Note the location and habitat.
    • Describe the bird's main feeding habitat and list two types of food that the bird is likely to eat.
    • Note whether the bird is a migrant or a summer, winter, or year-round resident of your area.
  6. Explain the function of a bird's song. Be able to identify five of the 20 species in your field notebook by song or call alone. For each of these five species, enter a description of the song or call, and note the behavior of the bird making the sound. Note why you think the bird was making the call or song that you heard.
  7. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Go on a field trip with a local club or with others who are knowledgeable about birds in your area.
      1. Keep a list or fill out a checklist of all the birds your group observed during the field trip.
      2. Tell your counselor which birds your group saw and why some species were common and some were present in small numbers.
      3. Tell your counselor what makes the area you visited good for finding birds.
    2. By using a public library or contacting the National Audubon Society, find the name and location of the Christmas Bird Count nearest your home and obtain the results of a recent count.
      1. Explain what kinds of information are collected during the annual event.
      2. Tell your counselor which species are most common, and explain why these birds are abundant.
      3. Tell your counselor which species are uncommon, and explain why these were present in small numbers. If the number of birds of these species is decreasing, explain why, and what, if anything, could be done to reverse their decline.
  8. Do ONE of the following. For the option you choose, describe what birds you hope to attract, and why.
    1. Build a bird feeder and put it in an appropriate place in your yard or another location.
    2. Build a birdbath and put it in an appropriate place.
    3. Build a backyard sanctuary for birds by planting trees and shrubs for food and cover.


Scouting Literature

Environmental Science, Fish and Wildlife Management, Forestry, Gardening, Landscape Architecture, Mammal Study, Nature, Pets, Photography, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Soil and Water Conservation, and Woodwork merit badge pamphlets

Field Guides

  • Field Guide to the Birds of North America, fourth edition. National Geographic Society, 2002.
  • Griggs, Jack, ed. All the Birds of North America: American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide. HarperCollins, 1997.
  • Kaufman, Kenn. Birds of North America. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
  • Field Guide to Advanced Birding (Peterson Field Guide Series). Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
  • National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Birds. Scholastic Inc., 1998.
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, fifth edition. Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
  • Field Guide to Western Birds. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
  • Peterson First Guide to Birds of North America. Chapters Publishing Ltd., 1998.
  • Robbins, Chandler, Bertel Bruun, Herbert Zim, and Jonathan Latimer. Birds of North America. St. Martin's Press, 2001.
  • Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf, 2002.
  • Stokes, Donald, and Lillian Stokes. Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. Little Brown & Co., 1996.
  • Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Western Region. Little Brown & Co., 1996.

Other Books About Birds

  • Able, Ken. Gatherings of Angels: Migrating Birds and Their Ecology. Cornell University Press, 1999.
  • Choate, Ernest, and R. A. Paynter Jr. Dictionary of American Bird Names. Harvard Common, 1985.
  • Cox, Randall. Birder's Dictionary. Falcon Publishing Co., 1996.
  • Dennis, John. A Complete Guide to Bird Feeding. Knopf, 1994.
  • Ehrlich, Paul, David Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye. Birder's Handbook. Fireside, 1988.
  • Elbroch, Mark. Bird Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species. Stackpole Books, 2001.
  • Greenberg, Russell, and Jamie Reaser. Bring Back the Birds. Stackpole Books, 1995.
  • Kaufman, Kenn. The Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Leahy, Chris. Birdwatcher's Companion. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • Sibley, David Allen, illustrator. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. Knopf, 2001.
  • Sibley's Birding Basics. Knopf, 2002.
  • Thompson III, Bill. Bird Watching for Dummies. IDG Books, 1997.
  • Welty, Joel C., and Luis Baptista. The Life of Birds, fourth edition. Saunders, 1997.

Recordings of Bird Calls

  • Borror, Donald, and William Gunn. Songs of the Warblers of North America. 1985.
  • Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Guide to Bird Sounds. 1985.
  • Evans, William, and Michael O'Brien. Flight Calls of Migratory Birds. 2002.
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern/Central North America. 2002.
  • Field Guide to Western Bird Songs. 1999.
  • Walton, Richard, and Robert Lawson. Birding by Ear. 2002.
  • Birding by Ear: Western. 1999.
  • More Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central. 2002.

Other Media

  • Dunn, Jon, Sheri Williamson, and John Vanderpoel. Hummingbirds of North America. 2003. 180 minutes. VHS.
  • Godfrey, Michael, and Kenn Kaufman. Owls Up Close. 1991. 55 minutes. VHS.
  • Male, Michael, and Judy Fieth. Watching Warblers: A Video Guide to Warblers of Eastern North America. 1996. 60 minutes. VHS.
  • Watching Sparrows. 2002. 75 minutes. VHS.
  • Nature Science Network. Hawks Up Close. 1992. 55 minutes. VHS.
  • Porter, Diane. How to Start Watching Birds. 1994. 90 minutes. VHS.
  • Walton, Richard, and Greg Dodge. Shorebirds: A Guide to Shorebirds of Eastern North America. 70 minutes. VHS and DVD.

Birding Software and CD-ROMs

  • AviSys 5 for Windows. Perceptive Systems, 2003. Listing software for all species, worldwide, with ability to include lengthy sighting notes.
  • Birdbrain 5.0 for Mac. Ideaform, 2000. Listing and record-keeping software.
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Guide to Birds of North America. Thayer Birding Software, 2002. CD-ROM for PCs. Photographs and songs of all North American birds, state checklists, bird club listings, electronic version of Birder's Handbook, and more.
  • Peterson Multimedia Guides: North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Interactive, 1996. CD-ROM for Windows. Covers all North American birds with illustrations, text from Peterson field guides, songs, photographs, and range maps.