Clayton, North Carolina

Birdwatching - Connecting Kids to Nature!
By Tony Nicosia

Children are fascinated by nature discovery. When parents revisit natural wonders through the eyes of children, we’re reminded that life, when all is said and done, is still infinitely remarkable. Taking time to really get to know the birds who share our habitat is a wonderful pastime for families. It’s good, clean fun, and builds values of respect and compassion for nature and all living things.

 

Though most of us don’t live in the thick of natural resources, almost any habitat has a variety of birds to capture children’s interest. Any time of year is good for viewing birds. Each season offers new insights on how birds cope within the environment. During spring and fall, mass migration of some birds takes place an outstanding phenomenon. How do hummingbirds make it across continents without burning themselves out? Children begin to notice similarities and differences in birds and that builds their skill for identifying birds. But the really fun part of bird watching (or as some call it: birding) is observing bird behavior. With experience, kids refine skills in concentration, observation, and reasoning. And they learn to deduce the how and whys of bird behavior. In fact, observing birds in action, whether it be comical or combative, is much more fun than just rattling off names! Whether you live among subdivisions, cornfields, woodlots, or near a river, lake, or stream, you can put these locations to good use bird watching

What Is Bird Watching?

Bird watching is more than just observing birds. It is an interest in the actual birds, their names, markings, activities, songs and habitats. Not only does it encourage a child (or an adult) to learn about birds, but gets them outside and builds an appreciation of local wildlife and nature.

Bird watching doesn't require a strong knowledge of birds; you can learn with your children as you begin to locate and identify local wild birds. Keep a list of the birds you've spotted and help one another identify what you've seen by making notes of the color, size and markings on the bird. You may even start to learn their calls and challenge yourself to identify the birds by their songs.

Where Can You Go to Bird Watch?

Bird watching can be as simple an activity as setting up a bird feeder in your backyard and watching the local wild birds that come to you. However, your children will no doubt appreciate time spent outdoors, properly geared up for an outing of bird watching with you.

You will soon learn about the specific habitats that birds live in around your home. As you become familiar with local birds you may even want to take trips to areas that will feature different species than you have locally. Watch as your children eagerly try to identify these new birds before you do!

What Do You Need?

Bird watching is a very inexpensive hobby. If you are going to be outside you will want everyone to have proper attire, including an extra pair of socks and a hat.

Other than that you will need at least one pair of binoculars, although it is more fun if everyone has their own pair so nobody misses out on a sighting. There are special binoculars for kids. You'll also want a bird book (called a field guide) to help you identify the birds you see. If you take along one that features birds in your area it will also give you suggestions about where you can find them.

If your children are older, or you catch the bird watching bug, be sure to take along a notepad and camera. Make notes on birds you can't identify and look them up at home with your children to determine what you saw. You might also develop a list of local birds and check them off as you see them. This is great for kids who thrive on challenge!

Don't miss out, watch birds in your backyard daily. Just put up a feeder to get started. But if you really want to attract birds add a bird bath. You and your kids will have even more fun if you put up a birdhouse (nest box) to watch a new family of baby birds being raised.

Bird watching is a fantastic hobby that the whole family can enjoy. Try it one afternoon and see for yourself how your family bonds while enjoying the fresh air, local scenery and most of all ... the natural world!