Nest Egg Science: Lesson Plan

Everybody knows birds build nests. But researchers are now looking at the connection between nest behaviors and the survival and growth rates of Carolina Chickadees.

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Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • NCES.Bio.2.1.2 — Analyze the survival and reproductive success of organisms in terms of behavioral, structural and reproductive adaptations.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will use Carolina Chickadees as examples to identify and describe adaptations.
  • Students will describe the process that scientists are using to study the nest constructions and behaviors of Carolina Chickadees. 
  • Students will identify the types of information that scientists can learn by studying the nest constructions and behaviors of birds.

Essential Questions

  1. How are scientists studying the nest constructions and behaviors of Carolina Chickadees? 
  2. Why is it important for Carolina Chickadee females to keep their eggs at 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the nest? 
  3. How can climate affect the nest-building habits of Carolina Chickadees?


Students can view the PBS Learning Media video Animal Structures: Nest Real Estate to gain an introduction of the importance of, and enormous variations among, bird nests. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What are some of the materials that are used to build bird nests? 
  2. Name some features of the nests in the video that benefit the nest and the eggs inside them.


Students will work with partners to gather information about Carolina Chickadees and the very similar Black-capped Chickadee, from the following online resources: 

  • All about Birds — 
  • Carolina Chickadee Study — 
  • Chickadees and their Winter Survival Techniques —


  1. Students will describe the following behaviors among chickadees:
  • Flocking
  • Feeding
  • Diet
  • Nesting 
  • Communication 
  • Discuss with the class the winter-survival techniques of the chickadee.
  • Explain

    Students will view the NC Science Now video Nest Egg Science. After watching the video, they should answer the following questions:

    1. How much do Carolina Chickadees weigh, and how might that affect their survival rates? 
    2. Why is the egg-incubation period a particularly crucial time for Carolina Chickadees? 
    3. What is Dr. Ballentine referring to when she says that Carolina Chickadees “have to balance activity” during the incubation process? 
    4. What strategies are researchers using to study the nesting behavior for Carolina Chickadees. 
    5. Describe the factors that help determine what type of nests Carolina Chickadees construct.


    Students will observe, identify and research the birds or other animals that visit the school grounds or their neighborhoods. Encourage students to use a digital camera or the camera feature of a mobile phone to take photographs of birds or other animals. Birds may be observed at a bird feeder. Then have students use print or online reference sources to identify the bird or other animal, and to research the structures, behaviors or other adaptations that help it survive in your region. Students will share their findings informally with group members, and then in an oral presentation to the class.


    Students work in pairs to prepare for and participate in a class quiz. Students begin by writing three multiple choice or short-answer questions about great egrets, their adaptations and habitats, the technology used to track great egrets, or other information that they learned in this lesson. Students will write their questions on numbered index cards. Implement the quiz by having students pass the index cards from pair to pair. Review the answers together as a class.