For Cornell Faculty

Curriculum Resources

CSIP Publications

In the News

Education Standards

Related Links


Natural Selection and Variation in Birds
Dan Ardia

2002-2004 Fellow

This lesson provides students with an opportunity to measure and analyze natural intraspecific variation and to make predictions about the relationship between the value of a trait and reproductive success. The activities can be carried out using either museum specimens of birds or online photos of such specimens. In either case, students assess variation in two traits often linked with reproductive success: plumage color and bill size.The lesson is described in this article:

Ardia, D. 2005. Natural Selection & Variation: A Hands-on Lesson using Bird Specimens. American Biology Teacher, 67(8): 468-473. (posted here with permission of the National Association of Biology Teachers)

To conduct the activities using real bird specimens:

Borrow bird specimens from an existing natural history collection or science center. For example, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a loan kit of prepared specimens. Note: without an authorized specimen loan or a federal permit, it is illegal to possess live or dead individuals of any native bird species except game species, such as ducks, geese and pheasants (although these often require a state game license). However, educational organizations can apply for a Migratory Bird Permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Download these curriculum resources:

Student Materials (PDF files):

To use the web-based version instead of bird specimens:

Download the Teacher's Guide, and visit the Teacher's Page and Student Page for instructions and access to photographs of bird specimens.



Copyright 2006 CSIP, Cornell University