8. Bird Beak Buffet - Sources


The Bird Beak Buffet activity is a classic in the teaching of natural selection and evolution. There are hundreds of write ups out there with all sorts of different variations. I first learned about the activity from Kimberly Tanner, currently faculty at San Francisco State University. I found a box of materials to borrow from Chris Giorni of Tree Frog Treks. Then I participated in a workshop with Karen Kalamuck of the Exploratorium Teachers’ Institute.

There are many variations of this activity on the web from many different organizations:

  • USGS
  • The National Aviary
  • Understanding Evolution by the UC Museum of Paleontology has 2 versions of the lesson Clipbirds and Battle of the Beaks.

For background resources on better understanding evolution, nothing beats the Understanding Evolution site from the UC Museum of Paleontology. There you can find everything from evolution 101 to scientific articles to student misconceptions to lesson plans. It’s a one-stop resource for all a teachers’ needs.

Finally, if your school district, administrators or parents opposes the teaching of evolution, see the National Center for Science Education for articles and resources that can help you justify what you are doing in your classroom.

Grade 7
3. Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know both genetic variation and environmental factors are causes of evolution and diversity of organisms.
b. Students know the reasoning used by Charles Darwin in reaching his conclusion that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution.
e. Students know that extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient for its survival.

Grade 9-12
7.   The frequency of an allele in a gene pool of a population depends on many factors and may be stable or unstable over time. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know why natural selection acts on the phenotype rather than the genotype of an organism.
d. Students know variation within a species increases the likelihood that at least some members of a species will survive under changed environmental conditions.

8. Evolution is the result of genetic changes that occur in constantly changing environments. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know how natural selection determines the differential survival of groups of organisms.
b. Students know a great diversity of species increases the chance that at least some organisms survive major changes in the environment.