Audubon for Kids

Are You As Tall As a Wading Bird?

Measure the heights of various wading birds and see how you compare.

Wading birds are all about extremes: They’re extremely tall, they have extremely long beaks and legs, and when they spread their wings, wow! Here’s an activity that adds a new dimension to the family tradition of measuring and marking kids’ heights over time on a wall or door frame. How do children’s heights compare with the heights of some extra-tall wading birds? You’ll need a measuring tape, some masking tape or other easy-to-remove tape that won’t pull paint off when you remove it, and a pencil or pen.

1. On a wall that has no obstructions up to 5-1/2 feet, start by measuring each child’s height, side by side if you have more than one child. Place a strip of tape to mark each height and label it with the child’s name and height in inches.

2. With your children’s help, measure these wading birds’ heights up from the floor in a row to the right of the children’s heights. As you measure each height, click on the bird’s name below so the kids can see it and learn about it on Audubon’s online bird guide. Place a strip of tape at each height and label it with each bird’s name and its height in inches.

Great Blue Heron, 52 inches

Sandhill Crane, 48 inches

Wood Stork, 44 inches

Great Egret, 41 inches

American Bittern, 34 inches

Roseate Spoonbill, 32 inches

3. Now look at the measurements. Ask children which birds they are taller than? Which birds are taller than the children? Have the children stand at their height markers and take a picture of this kid/wading bird height graph for your Audubon For Kids family collection.

Bonus: How do your children’s “wingspans” compare with those of wading birds?

Not only are wading birds very tall, they have extremely wide wingspans—the measurement from wingtip to wingtip when their wings are fully spread for flight.

1. Have each child stand at their height label and spread their arms out as wide as possible. Add a piece of tape at the tip of each hand. Measure the space between the two pieces of tape. Place another piece of tape between the two extremes and label it with the width in inches.

2. Measure, mark off, and label the width of the wingspan of each of the wading birds, just as you did with the children’s wingspans.

Great Blue Heron, 75 inches

Sandhill Crane, 84 inches

Wood Stork, 60 inches

Great Egret, 55 inches

American Bittern, 36 inches

Roseate Spoonbill, 54 inches

3. Together, look at the wingspans of the kids and the birds and talk about what the children observe. How do the children’s “wingspans” compare with each bird’s? Does the tallest bird have the widest wingspan? Which bird has the widest wingspan, and which has the smallest?

4. Take another picture of children showing their wingspans for the family collection.

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Audubon Adventures is an environmental science curriculum, developed by professional educators, that presents standards-based science content about birds and their habitats. It includes four-page magazines (in PDF format) just for kids with lively content, illustrations, and photographs on a variety of topics. Explore more activities, games, and lessons about birds and nature at the Audubon Adventures website.

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