Seed Gathering

Children will explore how birds get food in winter.


Lesson Objective

Children will understand the difficulties that birds living in cold climates have with getting seeds during winter.


What You'll Need

  • Tweezers – 1 per child
  • Birdseed – 3 cups
  • Ice cube trays – enough so that each child can get 1 ice cube
  • Small plastic plates – 1 per child
  • Disposable shallow trays – 1 per table

What To Do

Note: This lesson requires preparation the day before the activity.
  1. The day before the activity, freeze ice cubes containing some bird seed in the water.
  2. Discuss how birds eat (see Did You Know?).
  3. Distribute one empty tray to each table. Pour about ½ cup of birdseed on the tray.
  4. Distribute tweezers, and explain to the children that they will be using tweezers like a bird uses its beak to pick up the seeds (see Did You Know?).
  5. Discuss the ease or difficulty with this process (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  6. Explain that in the cold winter months, seeds get frozen in the earth or in ice and snow, making it more difficult for birds to get enough to eat (see Did You Know?).
  7. Distribute an ice cube containing bird seed to each child.
  8. Have the children use the tweezers to try to pick the seeds out of the frozen ice cube.
  9. Discuss the challenge that the frozen material created for them, and relate this to the challenges for birds living in areas with very cold winters (see Did You Know?).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Explain how the tweezers are like a bird’s beak.
  • Describe the difficulty (or ease) with using the tweezers to pick up the seeds.
  • Explain the difference between picking up the seeds on the trays and picking seeds out of the ice cube.
  • Explain why seeds are more difficult for birds to eat in winter than in other seasons.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • When finished with the activity, have the children help scatter the seeds outside for the birds to eat. You can thaw the ice cubes and dry off the bird seeds before scattering.
  • Make bird feeders using empty cardboard tubes, solid vegetable shortening, birdseed, and yarn. Each child can spread shortening on a cardboard tube using a plastic knife. Roll the tubes in a pan of birdseed. Thread the yarn through the center of the cardboard tube and tie a knot. Send them home with the children to hang in a tree for the birds to find.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain how the tweezers are like a bird’s beak?
  • Could children describe using the tweezers to pick up seeds?
  • Could children describe the difference in picking up the loose seeds compared with picking up the frozen seeds?
  • Could children explain why seeds are more difficult for birds to eat in the winter?


Did You Know?

Most birds eat insects, nuts, and seeds, but some birds are meat eaters. Different types of birds have different types of beaks, depending on what they eat. Meat-eating birds, like hawks and owls, have very sharp, curved beaks for tearing meat into small pieces. Nectar-eating birds, such as hummingbirds, have very long, narrow beaks to draw the nectar from flowers. Seed-eating birds, like finches and cardinals, have short, strong beaks that enable them to crack open seeds.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • seed – the small part of a plant with flowers that grows into a new plant.
  • tweezers – a small metal tool that has two arms, used for picking up small objects.
  • beak – the hard part of a bird's mouth.
  • winter – the season of the year between autumn and spring.
  • frozen – make into ice or become solid from cold temperatures.
  • challenge – a difficult problem.

Lesson Tips

You may want to introduce tweezers and have the children practice using them prior to doing this activity.


  • Birds by Kevin Henkes
  • No Two Alike by Keith Baker
  • How Do Birds Find Their Way? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Roma Gans
  • When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS