Easy Birdwatching with Kids
By Liska Myers, ADVENTURE-IN-A-BOX
May 7, 2015
Every spring, there's a special morning when we wake up and something feels different. After several cold, quiet months, we suddenly hear birds singing again!
It's so exciting to see the first robin in the spring—even if I know I'll be shooing him away from my strawberries in a few months, he's a dear guest when he first arrives.
Children often have a renewed interest in birds in the spring as well. Last year, my toddler was amused that birds existed. This year, he wants to know their names. As birds come to our yard and our bird feeder, we try to identify them (even if we need to use a bird guide).
The first step to learning the names of local birds is to familiarize yourself with the common species in your area. We found the website My Birdz very helpful—using its interactive map, we were able to recognize a few birds right away.
Once you have an idea of the birds you may see in your area, it's time to hold an observational study with your kids.
How To Do It:
1. Print pictures of common birds in your area. Depending on the kids' ages, choose 6–12 of the most common species.
2. Write the name of the bird on each picture.
3. Pin the bird pictures close to the window so kids can see their bird feeder, or take the pictures on walks with you. We did the latter. My son was very enthusiastic about our little adventure! Every now and then, he would stop, scan the photographs in his hand and name all the birds he already knew. How thrilling it was for him to see a cardinal at last!
4. When kids see one of the birds on their list, they can put a mark on its picture. It's like playing I Spy with an ornithological twist! But this game also holds some scientific value: while there is information available on bird distribution in different provinces, kids will learn exactly which birds are attracted to their own area.
Here are the birds we often see here, in Southern Ontario. Feel free to use this sheet if the birds seem familiar to you as well!
We noticed that we hardly ever see sparrows in our town, but cardinals, goldfinches, mourning doves and robins come to our bird feeder daily. Very occasionally, we spot a blue jay and a hummingbird.
Based on this information, kids can learn more about local birds. They can reseach how to attract different species of birds, or what kind of housing birds may need. Who knows—it might spark a completely new interest!
The pictures used in the collages are licensed under Creative Commons: Northern Cardinal by Stephen Wolfe, Common Grackle by MDF, Mourning Dove by Don DeBold, American Robin by Anonymous, Red-Winged Blackbird by Walter Siegmund, Black-Capped Chickadee by Anonymous, House Sparrow by Keith, American Goldfinch by Breck22, Canada Goose by Daniel D'Auria, Blue Jay by MDF, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird by Pslawinski and White-Breasted Nuthatch by MDF.