Brownie Shapes in Nature Activity

Collect Data About Birds

Learn about birds in your area and go bird-watching. Create a data table to count the number and kinds of birds you see.

Activity Details

Time needed: 40–50 minutes

Materials needed:

  • Field guides or research on birds
  • Access to outdoor area or video player
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Bird identification app and binoculars (optional)


Birds can be identified by their shape, their color, their sound, and what they’re doing. You can find birds in your neighborhood, in the woods, or at the zoo. You can even watch birds in nature through videos and livestreams.

Bird scientists are called ornithologists. They gather all kinds of data or information about birds. They write down the kinds of birds they see. They write down how many they see. They write down what the birds eat. Bird-watchers keep lists of birds, too. Many people share their data with others. They might give a presentation or make a poster about what they’ve learned.

Just like scientists, you can track and share your data with others. One way to do this is with a data table. A data table is a chart. It lists information in rows and columns. Rows are lines that go from side to side. Columns are lines that go up and down. You can use a data table to track the kinds of birds you see. You can also make tally marks to count how many you see. You can count or add your tally marks to find out how many birds you saw of each kind and in total.


First, decide how you’ll go bird-watching. Go outside or have an adult help you find nature videos or livestreams with birds online. Then, look at the field guides or have an adult help you research online to learn about the birds you expect to see. Find information about their names, shapes, colors, and songs or calls. If you can, find audio for the birds’ calls, too.

Next, set up a data table. Make a grid with three rows and at least five columns. In the boxes of the first column, going from top to bottom, write, “Kind of Bird,” “Tally,” and “Total.”

Then, go bird-watching. If you see a bird, try to identify it. Add each new kind of bird you see to the top row of a column. If you don’t know, that’s okay—just write or draw what it looks like. Add more columns if needed.

Track the number of birds you see in the row below with tally marks. For example, if you see three cardinals, write “Cardinal” on top of a column and make three tally marks in the row below. Be very quiet so you don’t miss any birds. Sometimes you’ll hear a bird before you see it. Look and listen very closely.

Afterwards, organize your data. Try to identify any birds you didn’t know earlier. Find the total for each kind of bird by counting the tally marks in each column. Write the total number for each kind of bird in the row below the tally marks. If needed, write an equation, like 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 3 = 23. Then, find the total number of birds you saw. Use an equation to add the row of numbers you just wrote, or count all the tally marks in the row above.

Look at your final data table: how many birds did you see of each kind? How many did you see in total? What kind of bird did you see most often? Which kind did you see the least often? Lastly, brainstorm how the bird count would change if the season or location were different. How do your location and the weather affect the kinds of birds you see?

If you can, show your data table to someone else. Tell them about the birds you saw. What was your favorite part about bird-watching? What can you learn from watching birds? Would you like to go bird-watching again?

Download the Badge Requirements.

Troop Leaders:  The instructions for all badge steps are available free of charge in your Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit.

Girl Scouts at Home activities have been adapted from existing Girl Scout programming and optimized for use during virtual troop meetings or for Girl Scouts at home.

Adapted from Step 5 of the Brownie Shapes in Nature badge. Purchase the official badge booklet  to complete all requirements and earn the badge.

Made possible by a generous grant from Johnson & Johnson.