Outdoor Hour Challenge-Birds: Jays and Bluebirds

“The bluebirds are usually ahead of the robins in the northward journey and often arrive in New York amid the blizzards of early March…There is a family resemblance between voices of the bluebird and robin, a certain rich quality of tone; but the robin’s song is far more assertive and complex than is the soft purling song of the bluebird, which has been vocalized as ‘tru-al-ly, tru-al-ly.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 62

Outdoor Hour Challenge Birds #2
Jays and Bluebirds

Bird Beaks

Inside preparation work:
1. Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages 39-40 about bird beaks. Try to think of two birds
that you can observe in person to compare their beaks. Use the illustration on page 41 to show different beak shapes.

Here is a website to see many different birds, their beaks, and an explanation of how they use them. Bird Adaptations-Beaks

2. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 62-65 about the bluebird. You might like to mention that the bluebird is in the thrush family just like the robin and they bear a family resemblance.

3. Backyard Birds: Read aloud with your child page 14 and 15 on jays. Jays are easy to spot because of their color and if you have opportunity to observe a jay, make note of the beak shape. Take notice of the field marks pointed out in the illustrations in the book.

4. Peterson Field Guide: Make note of the beak illustrations on page 18(W) or page 24(E). Look up in the index the blue jay and the bluebird. Observe the illustrations carefully and read the narrative descriptions and explanations.

Outdoor Hour Time
Allow at least 10-15 minutes of outdoor time to explore your backyard, neighborhood, or a near-by park. This time you are going to try to focus on finding a bird in order to observe its beak. Every bird has a beak. Sometimes the best way to get children to really see something is to get them to compare two things together. Try to get them started by asking them simple questions.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • How is the bird using its beak? (eating, pecking, scooping, preening, fluffing, carrying, etc)

  • Is the bird’s beak longer than its head? Shorter than its head?

  • Is the beak rounded? Pointy? Bent? Straight? Curved?

Don’t spend too much time talking about birds during your Outdoor Hour, try to observe quietly for a good part of the time. You can discuss and review during your follow-up time.

If you put out a bird feeder with the last challenge, take a few minutes to make sure it is filled up with seeds. Use the opportunity to observe any birds that visit the feeder during your Outdoor Hour Time. Work on your listening skills each time you go outdoors and try to hear the bird sounds in your neighborhood.

Stellars Jay @handbookofnaturestudy

Follow Up Activity For Jays and Bluebirds
You can make a nature journal entry for the jay and the bluebird if you would like.

The two jays from this challenge are included in Cornell’s bird coloring book: Feeder Birds Coloring Book. You can use these as the basis of your nature journal or you can use the simple line drawings as a pattern for your bird sketch.

Scrub Jay Stellars Jay coloring page @handbookofnaturestudy

I also found this link to the National Bluebird Society a great help in our bluebird study and it includes coloring pages for all three bluebirds. http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/PDF/educational%20packet.pdf (see pages 21-23 for the coloring pages)

You can also try to sketching in your regular nature journal a few shapes of beaks and then explain how they are used by the bird. If you are using NotebookingPages.com’s bird nature study set, you can complete the notebook page for beaks in your nature journal as well.

For Other Birds You Observed
For your follow up activity you can learn more about any bird that you observed. If you know what kind of bird it is, look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study for more information. You can also use the Peterson Field Guide or an internet resource such as whatbird.com or Cornell’s bird website at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/

Here are the links for this week’s birds. You can use these links to listen to the bird’s call if you are working on learning to identify birds by their calls.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

This red bird challenge is from the Learning About Birds ebook here on the Handbook of Nature Study. It is found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships for you to download and use with your family. If you would like to gain access to this ebook, you can purchase a membership now and have instant access.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Use the discount code BIRDLOVER5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership.


  1. We’ve really been enjoying European jays lately. (Hmm. The one in the photo there looks kind of scrawny. They’re really big and beautiful.) Yesterday I heard one go through an incredible range of noises. It was mimicking a whole cat fight!

  2. My post this time is my weekly report, but I included Kathryn’s journal page in there, so I’ve linked to it. ♥

  3. I added a link to back when we first discovered the jays that we have here. It’s an old blog entry, though; I hope that’s okay.

  4. I have a different edition of the field guide for Eastern Birds. Would you mind including the title of the section you are referring to and not just the page.

    Thanks. Valerie

  5. Hi Valerie,

    The reference to the page number in the Eastern Birds book was to the illustrations of the beaks in the very beginning of the book in the “How to Identify Birds” section.


  6. Yes, I know that the chickadee is not the study for this week, but I wanted to follow up on one of my son’s interests. We will get the bluebird and jay later on this week. : )

  7. This bird study is pretty far off from blue jays and bluebirds, but it’s what was available to us this week, so that’s what we studied!

  8. Thanks to Kelsey there is a new link in the challenge to view beaks and their adaptations.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  9. I really appreciate all the helpful links – thank you!

  10. We love the Blue Jays that come to our feeder all year. They are kind of quiet since the weather grew so hot — probably sitting on babies. The photo of the jay is from our winter feeding experiment, since it’s the best up close photo we have ever taken of the blue jay.

  11. We enjoyed learning more about birds we see often at the feeders, bird bath, and perched in trees here. This is what we learned and did for blue jays and bluebirds: http://harvestmoonbyhand.blogspot.com/2012/10/blue-jays-and-bluebirds-outdoor-hour.html

  12. We revisited learning about blue jays and doing some different activities than we did last time. We all learned a lot of new facts about these birds, and enjoyed spending time outdoors listening for them. Although we didn’t see any blue jays while we were outside, we certainly liked seeing all the flowers, milkweed, goldenrod, and horses in the pasture and yards where we spent time. Here’s more about what we did along with lots of pictures: http://harvestmoonbyhand.blogspot.com/2014/09/blue-jay-outdoor-hour-challenge.html

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