10+ Ways to Introduce Bird Watching to Kids
Get to know the birds in your backyard or around your neighborhood with these ideas.
Begin by noticing birds wherever you are. Name the ones you know. Ready for the next step? A field guide helps you identify and learn about the birds you see. Binoculars help see detail. You can use a small notebook to track the birds you see. Encourage your kids draw pictures or take notes about birds. The best time for bird sighting is usually early morning or late afternoon.
Look and Listen to Identify Birds
What kind of bird is it? Start paying attention to the details (color, shape, beak, etc.) that will help you figure it out. In Georgia, common birds you might see are Carolina wren, Georgia bluebird, song sparrows, thrushes, cardinals, blue jays and the state bird of Georgia, the Brown Thrasher, according to the Atlanta Audubon Society. Find out more in the citizen-scientist database.
Use Your Ears
Experienced birders can identify birds by sounds as well as sight. You can listen to the calls of various birds at All About Birds, an online bird guide from Cornell University.
If you want to see a lot of birds, try feeding them. You can buy a bird feeder, build your own from scratch or a kit, or you can make simple ones from materials you likely have on hand. A suet feeder is inexpensive, $6-$7, and blocks of suet (buy the hot pepper variety to keeps squirrels away) cost $2-$3 a piece. The National Audubon Society suggests this simple bird feeder: Mix peanut butter with cornmeal and spread on a large pinecone. Many birds even like fruit.
Watch from Afar
If your backyard isn’t teeming with birds or if you’re curious about specific birds, perhaps ones not native to your area, check out the web. Bird cams are a great way to get close ups on birds. Check out Avibase – The World Bird Database for a list of web cams all over the world. So feed our feathered friends this month and take some time to get to know them a little better – a new family hobby might take wing.
Binoculars are essential for detailed views of birds. Volunteers for the Audubon Society tested and ranked current models so you don’t have to. You can spend as little as $100 on a good pair of binoculars or $1,000 or more. To get younger kids excited about bird-spotting, buy inexpensive kid-sized binoculars. Some recommended brands: Discovery Binoculars; Learning Resources Primary Science Binoculars and Celestron UpClose G2 Roof Binoculars.
Younger Kids: About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill and John Sill; Birds, Nests, and Eggs (Take Along Guide) by Mel Boring.
Older Kids: Backyard Birds by Jonathan Latimer, Karen Stray Nolting, and Roger Tory Peterson; Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds (Eastern and Western regions), by Donald and Lillian Stokes.
Make Birds Feel at Home
The home you offer should be made of untreated wood, be appropriately sized (an entrance hole that is too small keeps out the birds you hope to attract, while one too large lets in aggressive birds and predators), have ventilation and include a baffle to keep away predators. The Right Bird, Right House tool provides information on creating and locating a safe, appropriate bird house.
Get to Know the Brown Thrasher
- The thrasher became Georgia’s official state bird in 1970, designated by the Legislature at the suggestion of the Garden Clubs of Georgia.
- The bird gets its name from its brownish-red color and the sound it makes as it searches for insects and nuts in ground debris.
- The brown thrasher sings a wide repertory of songs, more than 1,100, one of the largest of any North American bird, and it sometimes mimics other birds.
- Can you name the official Georgia state game bird? Now you can: The Bobwhite Quail.
Make Your Yard Bird-Friendly
Plant native plants, like American Holly, Azaleas and Redbuds, to attract birds, hummingbirds and other pollinators (Find more native plants with Audubon’s search page). Don’t forget water, as birds need this resource all year round. Try rocks or boulders that catch rainwater or include a bird bath or a fountain. Don’t use a lot of pesticides, as a bird-friendly garden is also bug-friendly. If you’re hoping to attract birds with a bird feeder, keep your pet cats inside.
Join the Club
Become a member of Atlanta Audubon Society and support conservation, education and advocacy efforts. Right now, they have digital resources and activities for kids to help keep them entertained and learn more about bird watching.
– Sara Barry