Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Birding with Children




Backyard birding is a fun, inexpensive activity that anyone can do that can be enjoyed by the entire family.  The steps to getting started are quite easy:

  1. Make or purchase a bird feeder.  Children can make simple feeders themselves.  One idea is to take a toilet paper or paper towel roll, punch two holes on opposite sides at the top and thread a piece of yarn or string through it to make a hanger.  Smear the sides with peanut butter (or shortening spread if allergies), then roll in birdseed.  A second easy-to-make feeder is the pinecone feeder.  Tie a piece of yard around a pine cone for a hanger, spread peanut butter (or shortening) on the pine cone, then dip in bird seed.  If purchasing a feeder, I would suggest buying one that has metal perches verses plastic perches.  I have found that over time, the birds pecking breaks the plastic perches apart.
  2. Find a good spot to hang the feeder.  You want to find a good location for your feeder.  Whether a tree branch, a post, or off your deck, make sure it is in location near trees.  Should a predator come by while your birds are dining, they will want a safe place to fly to close by.  In addition, think about placing the feeder near a window, where you can sit inside and enjoy watching.  I suggest a window near the kitchen table.
  3. Sit back and enjoy!


I have a few other suggestions:
  • Another thing that is not necessary, but will come in handy, is a bird guide.  I enjoy the Birds of (State) Field Guide  by Stan Tekiela.  These field guides are great companions for those beginning to bird watch as they feature the most commonly seen birds.  To this day, I still grab this guide most frequently.
  • Binoculars, while not necessary, can be helpful in identifying birds at a distance.  Even cheap little binoculars will do the trick for kids.
  • Print off a checklist of birds in your area and keep it out and as a family member spots a bird on the list, check it off.  Children will be eager to be the one to spot a bird and mark it off.
  • I also would recommend black bird seed.  This seems to be a favorite among the birds.  Buying it in bulk will save you money, but remember to keep it in a tightly sealed container if in the garage or house (this is a favorite of mice, too).  Birds also love nuts and fruits, especially raisins, oranges, blueberries and strawberries. 

In addition to all the fun bird watching can be, it can also be educational.  Asking children questions such as, Why do you think the males feathers are brighter than the females?  Why do you think different birds have different beaks and how does this effect what they eat?  Can you spot differences between the male and female? can get their minds thinking critically.  Birding can help children to think like a scientist by making observations and conclusions.  It can enhance the young child’s memory skills.  You can introduce topics of habitats, migration, life cycles and ecosystems.  You can also take family walks in parks and woods and see if you can spot birds.

Birding is fun for the family.  Even the youngest child can begin to learn to identify birds.  As children get older, they begin to notice changes in the birds, how to identify males from females, what features to look for in identification and bird behavior.  If you feed the birds long enough, you are sure to see bird drama at its best!  Everyone also enjoys seeing a new visitor to the feeders.

It is also nice to sit outside quietly and watch the birds.  This teaches children to appreciate the quiet and teaches them to relax, stay calm and be still.  



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