Vertebrates Lesson 4 : Birds part 1

Today I am sharing the birds lesson of our montessori classroom…..

As always we recap the names of all five classes of vertebrates and ask the children about the vertebrates that we have discussed so far and then proceed with the birds lessons.

We start the discussion with the question

Do you know what makes the birds different from other animals?

1. Is it bright colours? No. Many fish and insects are colourful.

2. Is it wings? No. Many insects and the flying mammal bat have wings too.

3. Is it eggs? No. Fish, amphibians and reptiles also lay eggs.

Then what is it that makes the bird different from others?

Feathers !!

Yes. All birds have feathers and birds are the only animals that do!
We show them the various collections of feathers we have.


We further talk about more of feathers to the elementary kids as follows…

Feathers are dead outgrowth of the skin like our nails and hair. Feathers are water proof, so they serve as the god given raincoat to the birds.

Feathers help the birds

  • To fly
  • To keep the body temperature warm (insulation)
  • To courtship displays (colourful feathers)

Parts of the feather 

I explained the parts of the feather with the following pictures and the feather specimen to the children.


  • The central hollow shaft or calamus is the smooth unpigmented base that extends under the skin into the feather follicle.
  • The portion above the skin from which small barbs extend is called rachis 
  • Barbs  are needle like filaments coming out at 45 degrees from rachis.
  • Barbs have two sets of filaments coming out on either side called barbules 
  • Barbules in turn have hooklets or barbicels which hook the adjacent barbules like a zipper. ( children can be given with hand lens and feather samples to examine the barbs and barbules)
  • Vane is composed of barbs and barbules on either side of the rachis


There are different types of feathers in a bird and they are

  • Contour feathers: They are feathers with vanes and they cover most of the surface of the bird providing protection and colourful smooth appearance
  • Flight feathers: These are large  vane feathers found in wings and tails. They are called primaries, secondaries and tertiaries, based on their site of attachment. The tail feathers are called retrices. The bases of the flight feathers are covered with small contour feathers called coverts.
  • Down feathers: These are small, soft, fluffy feathers found under the contour feathers and help in insulation.
  • Filoplumes: They are very fine hair like feather with long shaft and only few barbs at tips and have sensory functions.

We explain other general and specific characteristics of the birds with pictures in the birds folder as follows…..

  1. Birds can fly because of their hollow weightless bones
  2. Mother birds build nest with twigs, hay, grass, yarn etc to lay eggs.
  3. The mother bird takes care of the baby chicks by feeding them worms, insects and grains, till they are ready on their own.
  4. Special characteristics of certain birds
  • Owl: nocturnal bird. Bird of pray. Can rotate their heads 360 degrees
  • Peacock: beautiful feathers. Dance in monsoon season
  • Humming bird: small bird. Drinks nectar from the flowers like butterflies
  • Parrots: talking bird
  • Flight less birds: ostriches, penguins, kiwi

And we tell the children the life story of the bird with the booklets I have made…,

Story Booklets

A little peek into the pages of the booklet

We also give the family names (father, mother and baby) of the birds with the following flash cards


Lessons on bird given to the star kids club children with all the materials.

I will continue further lessons on bird in the next post.

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