University of Minnesota

Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from Renaissance Academy 2012

Renaissance Academy
2900 Pleasantwood Rd
Powhatan, VA 23139

Year: 2012
Teacher(s): Kristina McCullough


Sy C

In a 2011 study conducted at Yale University, scientists studied birds’ perception of color. They were amazed to discover that birds have a greater perception of color than humans. Birds can see four or five pigment types while humans can only see three. This led me to wonder if birds prefer different colors when it comes to food. I set up three feeders and filled them with plain, red, and blue safflower seed and recorded which color seed the birds ate most. Based on my experiment, I concluded that birds prefer plain and red seed equally and do not like blue seed.

Chicken Food Faves

Matthew F

I conducted this experiment to find out if chickens have different taste preferences or if they like the same kind of food. I conducted it by setting out six trays of food. Each tray had cracked corn, bread, mealworms, sunflower seeds, cantaloupe, or their regular feed. I used seven test chickens for the experiment. After three days of observation, the results were in. Cracked corn was the favorite for most of the chickens although the results varied about 33% of the time. The hypothesis “chickens have different taste preferences,” was supported by the data.

Do You Eat Like A Bird? An investigation into avian eating habits

Evan F

This experiment was conducted to determine if birds prefer to eat different sized pieces of food according to the bird’s own body size. It was conducted by putting out two bird feeders, about five meters apart; one feeder with crushed unsalted peanuts and one feeder with whole unsalted peanuts. I observed both feeders for 6 days, seeing which birds came to which feeders, and then I tallied up the results. The number of times a big or small bird visited each type of peanuts, whole and crushed, gave me my findings. The data showed that bigger birds prefer eating bigger food pieces and smaller birds prefer eating smaller food pieces.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Andrew M

Ornithologists across the globe identify birds by ear, using a species’ distinctive call to single it out in its habitat. But what if we were the ones making the noise, and those birds were the ones listening in? In my experiment, I tested different species’ reactions to their respective calls, and found some interesting results. For example, very aggressive species – like the Red-bellied Woodpecker – would fly in for a better look, and even attempt to intimidate the source of the noise – me. In contrast, birds like the American Goldfinch would fly away almost immediately when I played their call. On the whole, though, more birds would at least fly over to take a look than those who fled.

That's a Hummdinger!

Olivia S

Hummingbirds never cease to amaze me as their tiny bodies zip through the air like iridescent bullets. Because of their grace and beauty, people often try to attract them towards a viewing area by using feeders. The feeders are filled with man made nectar. Commercially available nectar is typically red, but why? Other colors are available, and certainly home-made solutions can be tinted any color. I created this experiment to find out which color hummingbirds responded to most. I chose the two colors, green and red, because of the bird’s natural feather coloring. I set up my experiment and recorded data for two weeks. The results showed that hummingbirds favored red nectar far more than green.

The Truth Uncovered! Do birds prefer feeding in the open or in a covered space

Kaity M

I had observed when bird-banding, that we caught more birds in mist nets in forested areas than in open fields. I wondered whether birds prefer dining in open, spacious areas or areas with proximate cover. To test this, I placed two sunflower feeders approximately one-hundred feet apart, one within 10ft of cover, and one without cover in 10ft and observed them from 20 and 80 ft away. I watched my feeders five days for 40 minutes each morning. Much to my surprise the result was that birds prefer feeding in the open. This is a rather basic experiment, but is very important in selecting feeder placement.

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