Tips for Birding With Kids

by kajohu

If you want to instill a love of nature in your kids, one easy way to start is to introduce them to bird-watching.

Birding is a great way to introduce children to the wonders of nature. Kids are naturally curious, and they're eager to explore and observe what's going on around them. And birds are endlessly fascinating and entertaining to watch. So bird-watching and kids go well together!

Here are a few tips and resources that will help you introduce your children to the wonderful world of birding. I'm also including a list of books and other visual-aid materials that you can use to help your child learn more about birds in your backyard and in other natural areas.

How to Start Birding With Your Children

Begin in your own backyard

Birding with kidsIt's easy to spark children's interest in watching birds, especially if you start them out by looking at the birds in your own backyard.   Even very young children are curious about what's going on outdoors, whether they're looking through the windows from inside the house or while they're outside.  

And birds are easy to observe and endlessly entertaining to watch!   Your children can see them as they fly around the yard, hop on the ground, sit on a telephone wire, feed from bird feeders, or use a bird bath.  

You and your kids can enjoy watching and learning more about birds during all seasons of the year.

Image by dionhinchcliffe, CC BY-SA 2.0

Questions to Guide Your Kids While Bird-Watching

Children will stay more focused on bird-watching if they're given guiding questions to think about.  Some questions that will help them learn more about birds through their own observations are:

  • What colors are the birds that they see?
  • How big are different birds (compared to each other, or to other objects nearby)?
  • Where do they see the birds (bird feeder, ground, trees, electric wires)?
  • What birds do they most commonly see? (They don't need to know the names yet, but they can answer with descriptive terms.)
  • What birds do they see just once in a while?
  • What kind of behavior do they see in the birds?
  • How do the birds interact with each other?
  • What kinds of songs and sounds to the birds make?

Older kids can keep a log of their observations, including their answers to these questions.  Younger children can make simple drawings of what they see, or have you help them record their observations.  Very young kids can be asked simple questions, such as "Where is the red bird?", "Which is the biggest bird?", "What do you think that bird is doing?".

Keep their birding sessions short.  An easy way to kill chidren's enjoyment of nature, including bird-watching, is to insist they spend more time on it than they want to.  For younger kids, keep it to a few minutes.  Older children with longer attention spans might be easily engaged for longer.

Good Books for Young Bird-Watchers

About Birds: A Guide for Children

Text and illustrations introduce the world of birds from eggs to flight, from songs to nests.

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Beginning Birdwatcher's Book: With 48 Stickers (Dover Children's Activity Books)

Easy-to-read fact-filled book helps young birdwatchers record sightings of 48 common North American birds, among them the blue jay, American crow, ruby-throated hummingbird, mou...

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Bird Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences

Bird Log Kids is a journal that allows youngsters ages five to twelve to record encounters with birds. Also included are pages to paste photos and feathers, as well as some room...

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The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guides)

Covering 300 of the most common birds in all of the United States and Canada, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America is loaded with color photographs, drawings showi...

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Kids Also Learn About Birds With Books and Posters

In between outdoor bird-watching sessions, your children may enjoy reading about wild birds and looking at pictures of birds that they might see in their backyards.

The books listed above are representative of the good quality bird books geared toward young birders.  Also note the journal where kids can record their observations of the birds they've seen.

I especially like this poster (right) of North American Backyard Birds.  Many are common to where I live.  

Show Your Kids More Backyard Bird Pictures

Children can learn bird names from pictures

Kids like to see pictures of birds.   They can start learning the names of the birds they see in their own backyards by looking at different wild bird photos and drawings.  

Do you live in the eastern half of the United States? Here are pictures and information about some of the common birds that I see in my own backyard, in southeast Michigan.

Backyard Birding - Common Birds in Our Backyard, Part 1
I've been interested in backyard birding for many years -- I learned how to identify a few of the birds that were common in our neighborhood when I was a ch...

Backyard Birding - Common Birds in Our Backyard, Part 2
In Backyard Birding - Common Birds in Our Backyard, I listed nine of the most common birds in my backyard in southeast Michigan.  Of course we have more...

Watching our backyard birds brings us great joy, especially during the winter months. Here are the most common winter birds we see in our backyard in SE Michigan.

Use Bird Feeders to Attract More Birds

Also bird baths, bird houses

You and your kids will see more birds in your yard if you put out bird feeders.  Let your kids help you clean and fill the feeders.  You can talk about how important it is to keep the bird feeders clean, so the birds don't get sick, and to keep feeders full so the birds continue to come back.

Have your children observe what kinds of birds are attracted to different feeders and food.  Also have them observe feeding behaviors of various bird species.

Birds are also drawn to water, so a bird bath can also make a nice addition to your back yard.  

Certain birds will gladly make nests in bird houses that you put out.  If you're handy, you and your child can make your own bird houses and bird feeders.

Image is my own: American Goldfinch couple at nyjer feeder

Three Common Types of Bird Feeders

Your kids will love watching birds at these feeders!
Woodlink Deluxe Cedar Bird Feeder with Suet Cages

Woodlink's Deluxe Cedar Wood Bird Feeder is ranch styled and provides great bird visibility as they feed. The feeder is constructed of reforested, kiln dried, inland red cedar. ...

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WoodLink Mini Magnum Nyjer Bird Feeder

This mini magnum thistle feeder is made with durable powder coated finish. Drain holes in seed tray. Holds 3/4 pounds of seed. 4-3/4-Inch diameter by 11-3/4-inch height.

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Duncraft 74201 Cardinal Classic Window Bird Feeder, 1 Quart

Tall windowpane feeder for large and small birds. 5.5-inch opening. Easily removes from suction cups for easy refilling. 1 quarts capacity. Measures 12-inch length.

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Take a Birding Field Trip

When your kids are familiar with many of the common birds in your own backyard, take them out on field trips to see birds in other habitats.  Have them tell you which birds are the same as ones they're familiar with, and which birds are new to them.   Take along bird guide books geared toward children and see if you and they can identify the new birds.

Visit your local park, a nearby field, nature preserve, or a lakeshore.   You can talk about how different kinds of birds prefer different habitats.  If your kids are used to seeing smaller birds in your yard, it will be fun to take them to see larger birds, such as ducks and geese.    Have your kids record their observations as they did when they were looking at backyard birds.

You may be able to find birding programs at nature centers that are geared toward children.  It's fun to go out with other families on a guided tour to find new birds and learn interesting facts about them!

Kids LIke to Use Binoculars

Your kids will enjoy seeing birds up close and personal by looking at them through binoculars.   You don't need expensive binoculars for your kids.   Choose a pair that is durable and can withstand accidental dropping.

Have your children practice finding backyard birds in the binoculars before taking them out on a birding field trip.

Terra Kids Binoculars with Bag

Haba Terra Kids Binoculars Open a whole new world of exploration with safe and sturdy Haba Terra Kids Binoculars. Whether it's a baseball game, bird watching or spotting a deer,...

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GeoSafari Compass Binoculars

Junior explorers can see and know where they’re heading with these lightweight, high-tech, soft-grip binoculars with built-in compass and attached neck strap. Large 30mm glass l...

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You May Also Enjoy These Pages

More About Backyard Birds

Birding By Ear
Birding by ear (listening to, and identifying birds by their songs and calls) is a great way to locate birds, and often the easiest way to identify birds

Backyard Birding - An Enjoyable Hobby
Watching the birds in our backyard is one of my favorite hobbies.

Best Birdfeeders to Attract Birds to Your Backyard
Do you know what kinds of bird feeders and bird food attract different birds?

Robin in Summer, Robin in Winter
Many American Robins migrate south during the winter, but not all.

 

Updated: 02/11/2016, kajohu
 
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kajohu on 05/06/2013

Ha! I've never heard of twitchers before :-) I guess we met a "twitcher" yesterday afternoon -- he had come out to see if he could find a rare white-eyed vireo that apparently had been spotted in that area.

frankbeswick on 05/06/2013

Thanks. In Britain we speak of twitchers, but serious birders object to being called twitchers, as twitchers are those who only rush out to see rarities, such as occasional visitors to our shores.

kajohu on 05/06/2013

Hi frankbeswick, "birding" is often used here in the U.S. by those who are more serious, and "bird watching" is considered a more casual activity. (My mother always corrects me when I ask her if she's been doing any bird watching....) Others (like me) use the terms interchangeably.

frankbeswick on 05/06/2013

Well, while my kids are old enough not to need this advice,[youngest 22] I have learned a new word. We Brits call birding bird watching, and I had not heard the term birding before. As I teach some English every new word is useful.

kajohu on 05/05/2013

Thanks, ohcaroline! Yes, the coloring pages can be very useful for kids in learning more about backyard birds!

ohcaroline on 05/05/2013

Bird feeders are such a neat way to get kids into birding. I like the coloring book ideas too.

kajohu on 05/05/2013

Thanks, pkmcr. Kids can be enthusiastic birders!

pkmcr on 05/05/2013

Fantastic and a great way to get kids interested in the natural world around us.

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