Jay Play

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In this outdoor activity, learners find out the color of food that jays prefer and then try to change the birds' preference by altering the taste of the food with salt. Learners consider how color recognition is important to bird and human, and how birds learn and adapt.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 8 oz. package of elbow macaroni, cooked
  • collander
  • liquid food coloring (red, green, blue, ellow)
  • 6 plastic bags
  • 5 pencils
  • data boad
  • marking pen
  • small box of table salt
  • flavorings like cayenne, mustard, almond extract
  • 3 mixing containers
  • paper towels
  • stick or spoon to use for mixing
  • watch with second hand
  • sheet of Action Cards
  • copies of each Action card
  • binoculars (optional)
  • field guides to local birds (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • The Scientific Worldview
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Food and Cooking
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1981