California Coastal National Monument

How to Play Seabird Olympics

Seabirds perched atop Bird Rock in Pebble Beach, CA.  Photo by M. Westphal, BLM.


Seabird Olympics is a great outdoor activity, and its primary focus is to teach students about seabird adaptations.  After learning about the various adaptations, students will demonstrate their knowledge through activities and by answering questions.

Materials Needed

Seabird Olympics score card half sheets
6 Seabird Olympics station sheets, laminated -or- in clear stands
Stopwatches (2-3)
Plastic tub with water and 60+ floating plastic fish
4 handheld strainers
Measuring tape (2-3)
2 tongs
Golf pencils
Flip chart -or- white board to record scores (optional) 


Anticipatory Questions:

1) How many bird species are there in the world?
Hint: There are around 3,000 different types of mammals
Answer: Between 9,000-10,000

2) How many bird species are found in California?
Answer: Around 640

3) How many seabird species are found in California?
Answer: ???

4) How can so many different seabirds live in one location, such as California's coastline?
Answer: They have special adaptations for feeding on different foods in the same area and for nesting in different spots on the rocks.

Adaptation Stations:

Ask the kids if they know what the word ADAPTATION means?  If they don't know, give them the following definition, "behaviors or body parts a bird has to help it survive in a certain environment."  Give them some examples but make them tell you (i.e. seabirds have webbed feet for... living in water, black oystercatchers have strong, long bills for... eating shellfish).

Today we are going to play a game called Seabird Olympics.  This game will teach you about some of the different adaptations seabirds have to help them survive in different places.  By the end of this activity you will:

Know what an adaptation is
Know a few examples of amazing adaptation seabirds have
Know how you compare to some of the seabirds on our coast

Start going through each station giving some facts about the birds on the worksheet.  Make sure to emphasize that these are "adaptations" that are helpful to these birds:

1) Brown pelicans have large warm feet so they can stand on their eggs to incubate them.
2) Black oystercatchers have special structures on their feet to help them stay on slippery rocks when they are getting their food.
3) Adult western gulls have a red spot on their spot on their beak that the chicks peck to make the parents regurgitate their food.
4) Pigeon guillemots use their wings to fly underwater and their feet to steer in order to catch fish.  They have a gland that excretes salt so they drink ocean water.
5-6) Pelagic and Brandt's cormorants are able to dive deep under water for long periods of time to chase and catch fish.


Seabird Olympics: Pelican Plunge Game.  Photo by R. Hanks, BLM.

The Pelican Plunge

Seabird Olympics: Black Oystercatcher Game.  Photo by R. Hanks, BLM.

Black Oystercatcher Feeding


Once you have gone through all the activities, do a brief wrap-up session.  Review the stations by asking students to name some different adaptations that they learned.  (i.e. What is an adaptation for a bird the needs to catch fish underwater?  What is an adaptation for a birds that needs to drink seawater?  What is an adaptation for a bird that flies for long distances?)


Back to Activities Page