Monday, July 7, 2014

Fun Ways to Enjoy Birding with the Family – 3 Favorite Tips

How to Make Education Fun and Enlightening - Photo by AcrylicArtist

We are fortunate to have a wide variety of birds where we live. My family enjoys the striking colors of the cardinals, goldfinches, and blue jays; the artful tunes of mockingbirds and sparrows; and the antics of the chickadees and mourning doves. Sometimes we might even be surprised by a hawk, quail, or a peacock! We call our youngest family member the Turkey Whisperer because she always gets an enthusiastic response from our neighbor's turkeys when she says "Gobble gobble!"

I fondly remember when a speech therapist was checking for speech patterns of one of my kids. The therapist showed my daughter pictures and asked her to say what she saw in each picture. I couldn't help but smile when the therapist showed her a picture of a red bird. I know the therapist was trying to assess her ability to say blended sounds in the word "bird," but I found it so sweet that my three-year-old called it a "cardinal!"

Yep, we've been watching birds for quite a while, so here are a few of my favorite tips.

Tips for Birding with the Family - Photo by mrmac04

Tip #1 Provide an Inviting Environment

Fresh water in a birdbath and food in a bird feeder will often attract birds to the yard. If you don't want squirrels terrorizing your bird feeder, use only safflower (NOT sunflower) seeds in the feeders. The squirrels are not at all interested in those white safflower seeds, but many birds love them. We also make food for hummingbirds during warmer months. You might have your kids to make some crafty bird feeders, help pick out a feeder at the store, or ensure that the feeder and birdbath are full.

Research what plants in your area attract birds. Gardening with the kids can provide quality time together, and playing in the dirt to me has a sort of healing quality. Flower gardens might also attract a nice variety of bees, butterflies, and other wildlife in addition to the birds.

Good Bird Guides on the Internet - Photo by ren

Tip #2 Learn How to Identify the Birds

If you don't already know the names of the various birds in your area, don't panic. This can be a fun learning opportunity for you and the kids. Libraries often carry a nice array of bird field guides with added information such as preferred diet and flight patterns. Oftentimes the male is much brighter and easier to identify, and field guides often feature pictures of both the male and female.

The Internet has some great resources about birds as well. This is just a short list, but here are a few of my favorites:
Learn About Birds - Photo by AcrylicArtist

Tip #3 Make bird education fun and personal

Research your area's birding trails, and involve the family in planning to visit some of these places. If your family likes to hike, this is a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature and get a little exercise while watching for various birds. Some people like to pack binoculars. Bring a camera and encourage the budding photographers in the family. See if anyone in the family can carry on a conversation with a bird through whistling or other noises.

Learn how to protect our feathered friends in simple ways. For example, keeping roadways clear of trash can lead to fewer injured birds on the roadways. Birds of prey in particular are at risk if they spot a mouse headed for a cigarette butt because they zero in on their prey and often do not notice approaching vehicles. See and learn more about birds and how to protect them while vising a zoological park, raptor center, state or national park, etc.

Make a chart of common birds and plan to watch a particular area for a certain period of time, marking each bird seen with tally marks. Then use the data to compare numbers, create a graph, or make predictions. Math skills learned in the classroom often make more sense if you can develop a learning activity at home that utilizes those skills in a practical way.

Hone artistic skills by providing bird coloring pages or have the children to draw birds they have seen. Make a bird sculpture or write stories about the birds. Study birds of other areas of the country or world. Learn the name for bird in several different languages and practice saying the words together.

Enjoy Birding with the Kids - Photo by juditu

Birding is a great family activity that can be done without any special equipment. A pair of watchful eyes near an outdoor area is the only requirement for watching birds. All of the other stuff is just lattice on the pie! Enjoying nature together is a unique experience in which no two days provide exactly the same experience. We hope your bird watching experiences are full of happy surprises and delightful memories.

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  1. Thanks, Katrena for the tips. I love to watch the birds, too. We have new baby blue birds in our box this week. It's fun watching the mom and dad take care of them.


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