We have a pretty simple setup that we purchased at Wild Birds Unlimited. In fact, we have the pole system that is on their hardware homepage. Hanging on the pole system are two multi-level feeders, a suet feeder, and a squirrel-proof feeder. On a good day, there are anywhere from 10-12 species that visit. On a spectacular day in early spring, we can see up to 22 species. Here are some ideas for starting bird watching with your family.
Invest in a good quality pole system from Wild Birds Unlimited or another birding store. Lowe’s or Home Depot will probably have something decent, but I like the lifetime guarantee that comes with WBU products.
- Wild Birds Unlimited
- Invest in a bird book that provides detailed colored illustrations as well as migration and nesting habits, size and color differences in juveniles and adults, and a description of a bird’s call. Particularly useful in identifying raptors would be illustrations of the underside of a bird while in flight. We use Field Guide to the Birds by National Geographic.
- For more information, pictures, videos and wav files of bird calls, use Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website, click here.
- Each year in February (this year, it’s February 17-20), Cornell, WBU and the National Science Foundation sponsor the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is a wonderful project for children, as they are able to watch their feeders, enter birdcount information electronically, submit pictures and even earn a certificate for their participation.
- Use Chirp! USA on the iphone/ipad to learn bird calls (the quiz is great for kids).
- Read one chapter of the Burgess Bird book a week. Read a page at a time, and ask the kids to tell you what they learned about each bird “character”. The Burgess Bird Book can be downloaded for free here.
- Anna Botsford Comstock’s “Handbook of Nature Study” is free online as well. It’s a huge compilation of nature facts, but if you have an e-reader, it is an excellent resource for “on-the-go” nature study. It has info about birds, insects, plants, fungi, mammals, reptiles, etc. Download it here.
- On Google, find black/white pictures of birds. Then print out (in color) an image of the bird. Point out elements of bird anatomy such as crest, breast, tail feathers, leg/foot color, beak, (is it hooked, long, short, stubby, pointed?). Give the kids colored pencils, and have them color in the pictures exactly like the actual bird. There should be no sparkles, purple birds, etc. The idea is to have them replicate the real bird so they can identify it the next time they see it!