The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and the Audubon movement both began at the beginning of the twentieth century and
share a common conservation ethic. Bird Study Merit Badge was one of the original BSA merit badges in 1911 and was required
to become a Eagle Scout until 1952, when the more generalized Nature (and later Environmental Science) Merit Badge was substituted.
Frank Chapman himself wrote the bird identification sections for the first Boy Scout Handbooks.
Merit badges give Scouts the opportunity to explore a hobby or vocation to see if it interests them. They are not
designed to make them proficient in an area. We should not expect Scouts who complete Bird Study merit badge to be proficient
birders, any more than we expect those who complete Engineering merit badge to be able to construct a railroad bridge.
The target audience will be young men aged 12 to 15 who may or may not be terribly interested in birds. In order
to give each student attention, a class size of fifteen or less is recommended to start, but can be a bit larger if there
are sufficient instructors.
While every boy is different, as a rule they like adventure, excitement, activity and learning
things. Their attention span is short, so no topic should be more than twenty minutes. Breaking things up between mental activities,
such as learning bird field marks, and physical activities, such as constructing bird feeders maintains interest. Remember
that this is our opportunity to sell birding as fun!
An obvious question is "what about Girl Scouts? " While there's
no reason the course couldn't be co-ed, the US Girl Scout program does not currently have a birding oriented badge. However,
a Junior Girl Scout who completed the requirements for the BSA Bird Study merit badge should qualify for the GSUSA Wildlife
proficiency badge. One solution is for Girl Scout leaders who are active birders is to petition their local GSUSA Council
to create a "council own" bird study proficiency badge. The techniques for doing this can be found from your local Girl Scout
Merit Badge Requirements