Wildlife detecting: identifying tracks and signs

Become a nature detective and find out what wildlife lives near you.

Two children sat on a field of grass searching for bugs with magnifying glasses.

This Experiencing Nature activity can be completed as part of Schools or Families Wild Challenge. (It counts as Tracks and signs for Families.)

Estimated time: 3-4 hours Season: All year Skill level: Not too tricky



Doing this activity as a family? Download your Autumn-Winter or Spring-Summer activity sheet from the 'What you'll need' section of this page. 

Doing this activity in a school? Download your Spot it activity sheet from the 'What you'll need' section of this page. 

A small child stood on a path in a woodland, looking through a camera to take a picture.

Step one

  • First, if you have made an animal tracker (see instructions below), check for tracks. Our guide to footprints can help work out who has popped by.

Step two

  • Go for a slow walk in search of other clues.
  • You could start in your own garden or try a path through a wild place. Pay particular attention to muddy spots where animals might leave their footprints.

Are you a teacher?

Take your students out to explore school grounds. Ask them to use their learnings from science topics such as habitats, biodiversity and food chains to help them make sense of what they see.

A group of four children holding blue, yellow and red clipboards learning in the woods.

Step three

  • As you walk, look around very carefully for clues. Can you see feathers, eggshells, animal tracks or hair caught on fences? Or maybe you can see nibbled nuts or seeds or possibly poo. Don’t pick this up though.
  • Use the activity sheets to give you some other ideas.

Step four

  • Have a think about what the clues you find might mean.
  • Maybe a Badger squeezed under a fence and left some trapped hairs, or a House Sparrow walked across the path and left its tracks. Can you follow where it went next?

Step five

  • If you have one, use a magnifying glass to see if there are any hidden details when you take a closer look.

Step six

  • Remember to wash your hands if you’ve been handling some of those messy clues.

Make an animal tracker

Find out what has been out at night while you’ve been fast asleep.

Step one

  • Fill the tray with sand and smooth the surface with the edge of the plank or ruler.

Step two

  • Put a little pet food in the dish and stick it in the middle of the tray. It is best to avoid fish or beef-based pet food as it’s bad for Hedgehogs.

Step three

  • Leave your tracker out overnight and see the next day if anything has left its footprints there. If you're very lucky, you might see the tracks of a wild visitor. Throw the pet food away in the morning, before it goes bad.
Two children crouched next to a small sandbox, shovelling sand in.
Partnering with

The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International.More