Return to Activities Home Page


Appropriate grade level: 4-6
Subjects: Science, Art
Time required: 1-2 class periods
Performance Standards:
1. Identify similarities and differences of organisms.
2. Describe differences in physical and behavioral traits that contribute to the survival of a particular living thing.
3. Describe motion in reference to space and time.

Background information, roll of butcher paper, paints of various colors (white, black, gray, red, blue, pink, brown, tan, yellow), scissors, tape, measuring tape (centimeters), pencils

1. Print a copy of bird wing anatomy from the website. Photocopy and pass out to students or make a poster size copy of the information to show the class.

2. Discuss different parts of a bird wing and compare it to our own arms. Differences include hollow/dense bone structure, feathers/skin, weight, the necessity for gathering food, metabolism, and heart rate.

3. Discussion ideas: Define adaptation. Questions to ask might include: Why don’t we fly and seabirds do? Do we need to fly to get our food? Why did birds develop this adaptation and we didn’t?

4. Art activity: Compare your own "wings" to the wings of the Laysan albatross and other seabirds.

Print a copy of the silhouettes of various seabirds from the website. Using measuring tape, tape, butcher paper, pencils, and imagination, have students draw the silhouette of a Laysan albatross, wandering albatross, and great frigatebird. Students can draw the albatross "eyeshadow" and other markings of the birds with paints or other materials using the pictures and descriptions in this activity. Cut out the birds and tape them to a wall. Let the students measure their own "wings" against the birds’ wings. Ask the question: Even if we had wings would we be able to fly? Why or why not?

A more permanent option for this activity is to build a bench for use on a playground or in a classroom using the Laysan albatross dimensions. Have the students measure and draw the bird, and trace it on a plywood board. Cut out the bird with a saw and attach it to a wooden bench. The bench can be assembled and attached by adults or students. Have the students paint the albatross features and the rest of the bench to match. They can use this as a long-term check on their own growth and to relate to the growth of the albatross chicks hatching this year.

Suggested comparisons to make:
Largest seabird wingspan (wandering albatross, 419 centimeters)

Smallest seabird (least tern, 21.59-24.13 centimeters from beak to tip of tail)

Smallest bird (calliope hummingbird, 7.11-8.89 centimeters from beak to tip of tail)

Largest bird body (ostrich, 68 kilograms, can’t fly)

Largest prehistoric flying animal, which was not a bird! (pterodactyl, 8m or 26 ft. wingspan)


Related activities:

Adaptable Mandibles illustrates feeding adaptations.