Featured Activity: Bird Watching
We fell into bird watching.
We love to spend time outdoors and before long the kids started asking about all the different birds we would see at the park, hiking, or even in our own backyard. I knew next to nothing about birds and could hardly identify even the bright red coat of a cardinal.
As we started to learn a bit more about our backyard birds and keep track of what we saw, the kids started to learn the names. I realized what a great activity bird watching is because there were birds everywhere. This was something we could take with us to keep the kids engaged while we were outside.
What You Need for Bird Watching
The best thing about bird watching is you don't need any gear to get started. More gear can always make an activity more fun, but it's not strictly required. That being said, my kids are infinitely more into anything that comes with some gear, so we assembled a little bird-watching bag with the following supplies.
- Notebook (The Thinking Tree Bird Journal is a great option for guided bird journaling for kids.)
- Bird Identification Guide for adults and kids.
- Colored Pencils
If your still not feeling confident about your ability to identify birds in the wild these apps may also be helpful.
Where to Start
Go outside and watch! Seriously it's that easy.
You can either start by going to a place that you love and seeing what birds you observe or pick a bird you want to find and use your birding guide to figure out where you might find it. There is no wrong way to get started. Once you find your first bird and identify it, you will be hooked.
A great way to start birding is to find other birders. There are lots of meet-ups for bird watching. We found some at our local nature center and another at the botanical gardens. We stop other birders we find when hiking or at the park to inquire about what they have found. Everyone always seems excited to hear that we want to learn more about birds.
I was initially quite worried that the kids would scare away the birds, but because they want to see them they are happy to remain quiet. We just make sure that when they are losing interest we move on.
The Great Backyard Bird Count
Our favorite birding activity is The Great Backyard Bird Count. Every year in February, people all over the world count birds in their area and report what they have seen. All you have to do is commit to watching at least 15 minutes in one spot during the four-day window. Then you go online and enter your data.
This is a great project for families to participate in and a marvelous way to practice your birding skills.
I love diving into things like bird watching. If like me you're always looking for a few more resources, this "extra reading" list is for you.
- Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids: Activities and Ideas for Watching, Feeding, and Housing Our Feathered Friends by Elissa Ruth Wolfson
- Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky
- What It's Like to be a Bird: From Flying to NEsting, Eating to Singing -- What Birds are Doing and Why by David Allen Sibley
Our favorite birding read-aloud is The Burgess Bird Book for Children, which helps you remember each bird's color and song through a charming story.
If you're a podcast lover check out Bird Note. A short daily podcast where you learn something new about birds each day.
For the subscription box crowd, Bird Watching Academy offers a variety of monthly boxes aimed at helping you learn about birds and bird watching.
If you are a board game-type family you won't want to miss Wingspan. Bird Bingo is beautifully illustrated and a great way to practice your bird identification. We also love Professor Noggin's Birds of North America trivia cards for family game time on a road trip or when out to dinner.
Give It A Try
However you decide to birdwatch, I hope it tunes you in just a little more to the world around you. For us, bird watching has helped us identify plants and ecosystems, and make choices about what we plant in our backyard. We've spent a bit more time looking for where a particular bird might nest and walking quietly on a hike to see if we can catch a bird's song. It has honed our practical memorization and recall skills. I can honestly say it has enriched our life, as I hope it does yours!
Does your family enjoy bird watching? Have you spotted anything unique? If you do, tag us on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!
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