posted in Life & Home
The Great Backyard Bird Count is almost here! Every year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (that’s bird studying and stuff), The Audobon Society, and Bird Studies Canada team up to encourage people to take 15 minutes and count some birds. You can grab the kids and head to a park, go on a hike, even just count them in your own yard. Enter your findings here, and help scientists as they study bird populations and patterns.
I love this program for several reasons, but mostly because it counts kids as important. They’re collecting information for actual scientists to use in actual research, and that’s a pretty great feeling. Combine that with the fact that it gets everyone outdoors and observing nature, and I think you can’t go wrong. Kids can do this once, or once a day for the entire time of the count (Feb. 17-20).
And I’ve noticed that once you get kids involved in bird watching, they’ll want to do more. Here are a few more tips for bird watching with your kids.
1.) Get a bird feeder. We have a squirrel-proof feeder that we bought at a home improvement store for about $10. Hang it where you can see it from a window, fill it up, and watch the show. On cold and snowy days when everyone is tucked warmly in their homes, we’re always amazed to see the numbers of birds flocking to our feeder. It’s better than TV, I swear.
2.) Get a bird bath. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Ours is a flower pot saucer on a tree stump. But when it’s cold out, birds need water that isn’t iced over. If you keep some fresh water where they can get it (near a tree or some kind of shelter for them is best…and close to your feeder if you have one) you’ll be hosting crazy bird hot-tub parties all winter long.
3.) Do some research. Roger Tory Peterson has bird guides for just about every region, and he’s made some especially for kids as well. Maybe set up a bookshelf or basket near the window where you bird watch, and have some books, a sketchpad, and some colored pencils for kids to draw what they see. The Audobon Society also has a wonderful app that helps you identify the birds you find.
4.) Make bird treats. Make your own bird feeders with stuff you probably already have at home. Hang them out and see what kinds of birds like your goodies.
5.) Practice observing. You don’t have to know much about birds to get your children interested in learning more about them. Go for a walk or hike and just talk. Do you see any birds? What do they look like? Can you hear any birds? Where do you think they are? What might they like to eat? Sometimes this can lead to more interest and checking out books from the library or looking things up online. Sometimes it just leads to conversations with your kids and then everyone goes and gets some hot cocoa. Both are a great way to spend a morning.
Photo credits: istock and Laura Falin