Bird watching can be a fun hobby for the whole family. My children have always enjoyed watching all creatures, be it on a hike or in our backyard. So when our zoology studies came to focus on birds, we wanted to attract an array of different birds into our yard. We also plan to explore local parks and trails to find birds that most likely won’t show up at our window.
To get us started, I set up a birding journal for each of my kids. This journal will be used to keep count of the different bird species we see and as a reference while hiking.
I bought 3 small sketch pads from the DollarStore. Sketch pads have no lines. This is perfect for not only note taking, but also drawing birds or anything else they feel inspired to sketch.
To personalize the journals, I cut a piece of paper to fit on the cover of the sketch pad. On this page I asked them to draw a couple of birds. Two of my children traced the inside of a duct tape roll to make perfect circles. From there, they turned the circles into plump birdies looking in different directions. On the other hand, my son chose to make smaller birds more so resembling the video game characters Angry Birds.
Since we will be taking these journals on hikes, I decided to add some informative sheets to the first couple of pages. These pages will help us learn the names of trees. Plus they will help us identify animal tracks, if we are lucky enough to come across any. For the size of our journals, it worked out to cut the pages in half, glueing the halves on opposing pages with the spiral binding separating them.
The handouts I used, were received last year at different nature programs we attended. I scoured the internet looking for similar printouts to list for your convenience. I found these identification cards that will make a GREAT addition to any journal! (I may even add them to our journals just because they are so nice looking🙂)
Leaf identification Flashcards by Look! We’re Learning!
Animal Track Identification Cards from Hobby Farms
The last thing I included was the scavenger hunt from our curriculum. However, for you I have created a free printable, Creatures That Fly Scavenger Hunt.
A Journal for Young Children
My youngest is five and while she can’t read well enough yet to follow the scavenger hunt, I knew she would like to be included by having her own mission. Therefore, I printed off a couple fun picture scavenger hunts.
Tally mark bird hunt by Fantastic Fun and Learning
All About Birds Scavenger hunt by Creative Family Fun
Bird Call App
Now you may ask, what if we hear a bird but can’t see it well enough to identify? To aid in this situation, a friend highly recommended the BirdNET app. I downloaded it on my phone so we have it with us at all times. With this app you are able to record birds songs and calls. Upon submitting a song, the app quickly informs you of the species along with a link to retrieve information and a picture of the identified bird. It’s relatively easy to use. The best part is that this app is free in the Google Play Store.
Bird Guide and Binoculars
It is also helpful to have a bird guide and binoculars handy, be it at the window or in your backpack. I bought Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists Backyard Birds. It can be a good tool for young children of early Elementary age. It is a thin book containing some of the most common birds in America.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds is full of great pictures and lots of information. A wonderful, complete source. Be sure to buy a book that is specific to your area.
We use the Obuby binoculars which are reasonably priced, sturdy, and work well.
At this point, we are prepared to observe, identify and record our findings. Now we need to bring more subjects into our yard. Come spring and summer, the addition of bird friendly plants like sunflowers, coneflowers, and black-eyed susan (just to name a few) can create a beautiful landscape while attracting birds. This time of the year (autumn), we can achieve our goal with the addition of bird feeders and a birdbath.
To start, my kids made 4 bird feeders from the small 20 fl. oz. Coke bottles and wooden dowels. To get holes started in the bottles, I used a seam ripper, which worked great. Then I let my children widen the holes and cut out the openings with scissors.
To see which seed the birds in our backyard prefer, my children filled two feeders with a wild mix seed and the other two with thistle seed. Then they paired them up, one mix and one thistle made a pair.
The feeder pairs are in two different locations. One pair is in front of our schoolroom window. The other pair is hanging in a tree farther away, but still visible. Ready to record our observations, we keep our binoculars, bird guide and bird journals beside the window.
We have a designated place in the journals for tallying up which feeders are being used. Will location have an effect on the birds eating preferences? Both locations have the same options of food. However, will the birds prefer to feed from the feeders farther away, or will they feel comfortable at the window?
Another section of the journal is designated to listing the species of birds observed in our backyard as well as their behaviors. This will help us keep track of which species visit, help us learn the species names, and get familiar with their behaviors. Plus it will keep us on our toes looking for new species to add to our list. Some migrating birds will stop at the same feeders year after year staying only a day or sometimes a little longer before continuing on south. So keeping up with the species and dates could possibly help predict when particular birds will appear.
A birdbath can attract birds all year round (especially if you have a heated birdbath). Despite the cold weather in the winter, birds still need to drink water. Plus they will still bathe in the winter as it is a part of the preening process to straighten their feathers. A birdbath is a nice addition that can be easily made for next to nothing.
Here’s how we made ours: https://homestudyfromthegratefulheart.wordpress.com/2020/10/27/charming-diy-birdbath/
Learn About Birds Outside the Yard
Hiking – put on those hiking shoes and find a greenway, lake, or hiking trails in your area. It’s a great way to get in some exercise and fresh air. Plus there is a lot for the children to explore on the way.
Visit an Aviary – visiting an outdoor or indoor aviary will provide the family an opportunity to see birds up close and perhaps see birds from other areas.
Canoeing – how better to observe waterfowl than to be along side them in the water. Here you can get close to the heron and watch the eagles and osprey soaring up above in search of a catch. If you don’t own a canoe, look for lakes that have rentals.
Ready, Set, Bird Watch
Binoculars…check. Birding journals… check. Bird feeders…check. Birdbath, BirdNET app, Hiking shoes…check, check, check. Let the bird watching begin!
We look forward to seeking out as many different, beautiful birds while we explore our corner in this stunning world. And we wish you the best of luck in your birding quest.
Find beauty in the everyday.