Nature Quests for Families

Girl on computer

Ready to go on an adventure?

Join families from around the world exploring nature through fun, hands-on Nature Quests! Choose between outdoor or indoor quests, or mix it up.

Outdoor Quests

  1. Go on a bird walk in your neighborhood or a local park. How many birds can you find and identify with the help of the Merlin Bird ID app? Challenge yourself to see at least 5 different birds.
  2. Sit together outdoors as a family and create individual sound maps. Did anyone hear any sounds that no one else noticed?  (Detailed Sound Map instructions)
  3. Take your family outside, listen for bird songs and calls, and try to imitate them. Which family member sounds most like a bird?
  4. Go on a nest search! Look in bushes, trees, and building eaves for nests used last year or this spring’s nests. Please be careful not to disturb nesting birds.
  5. Build a nest that fits your family! Go outside and use natural materials.
  6. Baby birds are fed a diet with nutrients that help them grow. Gather ingredients from outside and create a “meal” that would make a baby bird beg for more!
  7. Go on a Nature Rainbow hike. Challenge yourself or your family to find all the colors in the rainbow, all in natural items. Which colors are easier to find? Which are more challenging?
  8. Gather “bugs” (dry beans, rice, pennies) and two bowls. Place bugs in one bowl and place the empty “nest” bowl across your house or yard. Take turns pretending you are a bird parent. Who can move the most bugs (moving only one bug at a time) to the hungry babies in the nest in 1 minute?
  9. Play Bird Bingo as a family. You can use our Bird Bingo cards or make your own.
  10. Find a “sit spot,” a quiet place to sit outside or by a window to observe birds. Visit your spot at different times of day. How does bird activity change?
  11. Hold a Paper Airplane Olympics! Give awards for the plane that flies the farthest, straightest, and craziest!
  12. Set up a family bird migration obstacle course and race each other through the course.
  13. Search your backyard or local park for foods you think a bird might eat, like berries, seeds, and insects. How many different kinds of food can you find?
  14. Go on a bird behavior walk in your neighborhood or a local park. Look for birds foraging, preening, moving in a flock, or hiding from predators.
  15. Go outdoors and use the Seek app to identify plants and animals in your yard. If you can’t go outside, identify any houseplants you have! (Information on the Seek app)
  16. Set up a blind or camouflage yourself to try to capture a close-up image of an animal such as a bird or squirrel.
  17. Design a whole feeder station. Think about adding additional types of feeders to the one you designed, add a water source, and add some plants for birds that provide cover or a place to build a nest. Use our Spark Guide: Feeder Design Challenge for some great tips!
  18. Play “Guess What” – have each family take turns giving detailed general descriptions of items from nature, while other members of the family guess what it is.
  19. Take your family on a sensory hike. Challenge each other to see who can make the most observations in a minute! 
  20. Encourage your inner scientist and go on a question hike with your family! See how many questions your family can come up with.
  21. Go on a walk to notice bird feet and how they use them. See if you can find a woodpecker or nuthatch climbing a tree.  Can you see the 2 forward-facing toes and the 2 backward-facing toes, as seen in this photo? Find a perching bird and notice it only has 1 backward-facing toe, as seen in this photo. Did you see any birds with webbed feet, like this duck?
  22. Take your sketchbook outside and sketch a bird. Add some of the inside body parts of a bird to your sketch, or make a detailed drawing of its beak or feet.
  23. Go on a walk to find and observe crows. How many crows can you find? Did you see any black birds that were not crows?
  24. Make friends with your neighborhood crows. Buy some unsalted and in-shell peanuts, take a walk every day or find a special spot, feed the crows your peanuts, and see if you can get your neighborhood crows to recognize you.
  25. Plant native plants to provide habitat for birds, whether that’s in your yard or your community. Use this guide to find the right native plants for your space.
  26. Discover a participatory-science project and participate! Collect data that will help conservation efforts and start your own career as a scientist. 
  27. Pick up litter on your next walk or hike.

Indoor Quests

  1. Visit the Wall of Birds to find: the falcon, albatross, hummingbird, and owl.
  2. Look at videos of birds on Macaulay Library, and try to act out some bird moves.
  3. Find a bird sound you find weird or surprising on Macaulay Library.
  4. Strut your stuff! Lead your family in a bird-of-paradise dance, a pigeon strut, or an eagle soar.
  5. Find out which birds use nest boxes (also called bird houses) where you live using the Right Bird, Right House Guide from the Lab’s participatory-science project, NestWatch.
  6. Build a nest that fits your family! Stay indoors and use things from around the house such as pillows and blankets.
  7. Scroll through NestWatch’s Home Tweet Home photo contest and find the cutest baby, best nest, and most egg-straordinary eggs.
  8. Learn about the features of a good birdhouse. Sketch your ideal birdhouse. How does it keep birds safe?
  9. Baby birds are fed a diet with nutrients that help them grow. Gather ingredients from outside and create a “meal” that would make a baby bird beg for more!
  10. Play Bird Pictionary. Take turns drawing birds that live near you (from memory or using the Merlin app or for photos) and challenge your family members to identify each other’s drawings!
  11. Observe flight patterns online in bird flight videos in the Macaulay Library.
  12. Play Flap to the Future, a free science game. Start as an earthbound dinosaur and explore the stages of flight through modern birds and beyond.
  13. Hold a Paper Airplane Olympics! Give awards for the plane that flies the farthest, straightest, and craziest!
  14. Play Bird Behavior Charades. Take turns acting out a bird behavior and challenging your family members to identify it.
  15. Use Project FeederWatch’s Common Feeder Birds interactive to find which birds in your region eat peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, or suet.
  16. Brainstorm as a family: If you had one month and could go anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why? What would you want to see?
  17. There are many streaming cameras that capture wildlife, zoo, and aquarium animals. Search and find one or more for your family to explore. Use our Spark Guide to help you get started!
  18. Explore bird beaks! Which bird beaks interest you? Research birds that have those kinds of beaks.
  19. Have everyone in your family create a beak mask, then have a bird party with seeds, nuts, and fruit as the food and do some bird dances.
  20. Check out our video library to observe birds that you probably won’t see at a feeder.
  21. Explore your sense of taste by doing a taste test with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour food. Taste at least one thing with each flavor and talk about which flavors you like best.
  22. Download an issue of our student magazine BirdSleuth Investigator and learn from students who took their observations a step further and researched their questions or created art.
  23. Explore more about bird anatomy at our interactive All About Bird Anatomy.
  24. Pick one body system from those shown at All About Bird Anatomy. Use strings, rubber bands, play dough, other household items, or items found in nature and try your hand at making a 3D model of that system.
  25. Make crow puppets and have a puppet show. Make your own puppets, or try one of these options options like this video of a talking paper crow or this paper bag crow.
  26. Learn about the crows that live around the world on eBird. What do crows have in common? And how are they different? Note: use the arrows at the top right to scroll through the crows. Pay attention that the birds you’re looking at have a scientific name that starts with “Corvus” which is the crow family.
  27. Explore a conservation issue in your state or town and take action to make a difference.