Ohmygoodnessgracious we are crazy about birds around here! Much like the environment (see the post Spring Into Action), birds are a love I learned from my son. I remember my dad building a feeder at one house we lived, and he knew certain ones by sight or sound, but it was no particular passion growing up. Then my little one hit. By the time he could start to communicate, he would talk about the birds. Right after turning 3 he received his first birdfeeder as a Christmas gift. We now have 6 – 3 seed, 2 hummingbird, and 1 suet. Bird guides and apps have attached themselves to us like magnets. He began his life list (something I had never heard of) at age 4. We enticed a towhee on our porch with us with recorded calls, and have one that seems to sing his name. We watched our first cardinal nestlings take to the wide world last summer and our wrens try in vain to build a home in a potted poinsettia. We know our local birds personally and can pick out a newcomer by ear or eye. We have a mission this year to build a birdhouse. I spent much of my morning, binoculars in hand and bird calls playing on my phone, trying to identify our most recent guest. And I have told him thank you repeatedly for introducing me to this amazing world I had been missing out on.
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Books to Explore:
After getting it at the library, this was our first buy. It is a good starting point with enough information to get you going.
Tag along as a little Brown Kiwi introduces you to the many varieties, sizes, and shapes of the avian world. It is richly illustrated, with guides to the pictures in the back, along with some information on the Kiwi.
A fun first look at the hatching of a chicken; the main character is determined to help brood an egg but has a bit to learn before she has success.
A beautiful, poetic tale of a great horned owl family. The haiku blends so perfectly with the pictures and is a pleasure to read.
There are several titles in this series in partnership with Cornell. They are really amazing books and stand out in their field (most similar versions offer perhaps 12 birds). The biggest downfalls for me: the index system isn’t the best; they only offer 1 call per bird; there is no keypad so you scroll up or down through the 250 to reach your target. However if you can get a good used copy (I found one for around $14) it is well worth the investment and incredibly fun for kids.
Essentially a picture-book version of bird count programs. There is more information at the end about the species.
A child is introduced to the joys of birding. A section at the end describes the featured birds.
Really less a bird book and more a book about conquering your fears, but I love this book – both for the message and stylistically. It is just an enjoyable read!
What if a little brown bird decides it doesn’t want to peep anymore? Is it okay to do your own thing?
In all my years on the earth, it had honestly never occurred to me that Humpty Dumpty – while I knew he was an egg – could hatch. This interesting “sequel” deals with conquering your fears so that you may soar.
A year in the life… told by the bird, diary-style. There is additional information provided at the back of the book.
Websites & Links:
- Audobon – we have the app and love it. He will sit and simply scroll through the lists. I love that you can search with one or many criteria to try to find a bird you’re after plus hear a sampling of different calls.
- Cornell – along with Audobon, one of the premier sites for all things bird. They have a whole area of K-12 lesson plans, activities, and more, such as their Feathered Friends section.
- eBird – not only a wealth of information, but a leading site for submitting your own bird sightings.
- NOVAScienceNow – Learn about Alex, one amazing parrot.
- MorningChores.com – whether you’re building a birdhouse or bird feeder; whether your kids are doing it or you are a master carpenter; whether you want cheap and plain, upcycled and innovative, or elaborate and fanciful, this is the only site you need to find your project.
- National Geographic Kids – from Adelie penguins to whooping cranes, there’s lots to learn in a bright and kid-friendly format.
Out in the Community:
- Ask about adding bird feeders or houses at areas like parks or libraries.
- See if you have a citizen science or wildlife program nearby dealing with birds.
- Participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count.
- Track down and visit a nearby bird rescue.
Lesson Building Blocks:
- Explore species of birds with Decisions, Decisions. (The National Geographic site listed above is a great place to get facts for this game.)
- Build a birdhouse – find our who nests in boxes locally; some have very precise standards.
- Build a bird feeder – or a bunch! Different feeders and different foods attract different birds. We have 4 styles and 3 food types (hummingbird, suet with cage, seed with perches, and open-flow seed). Then, within seed, you can attract various types depending upon whether you use varieties such as sunflower, thistle, or mixed. Or go carnivorous with items like mealworms to attract bluebirds and others. While you’re at it, include a shallow dish water, with a rock in the middle, so they can wash their snack down. Caution: do NOT use hummingbird food containing red dye. To make your own, simply boil water for 10 minutes, and mix with sugar at a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.
- Learn about the many different birds of paradise. Because, well – wow. They are amazing! David Attenborough, the BBC, & PBS are always great sources. Try this site currently to see an older show.
- Start a life list. We use this very simple and straight-forward version.
- Study bird anatomy and the systems that make them go with resources such as Beautyofbirds.com, or visit someone with chickens and learn about the process of egg production and chick development.