Family Time Bird Watching
By Caleb Blake
Many parents face the difficult question of “How do I get my children away from the screens, and get them outside?” I want to tell you about one of the most overlooked and easily accessible sources of outdoor entertainment… birds! Many of us have a vague knowledge of some of the birds that live around us. But how often do we actually stop and admire them? They truly are some of the most fascinating creatures in God’s creation. For example, did you know that birds can see ultraviolet light, or that the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal on the planet at 230 mph?! I grew up loving the outdoors, but I was not always as fascinated by birds as I am now. One year, I gave my mother a small bird feeder for Mother’s Day. She would ask me to identify the birds for her, and over time this became a way for us to engage with the outdoors and bond with one another. This experience led to a love for bird watching that exists to this day. I want to offer some helpful tips for getting your children interested in the wonders of bird watching.
1. Start in your own backyard. One of the great things about bird watching is that you do not have to go very far to find them. All you have to do is look right outside of your home. You can see Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, and many more – right in your own backyard. Now, if you want to attract more birds to your yard, you can add a simple bird feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds.
2. Get binoculars and a field guide. A basic pair of binoculars will work just fine, and there are plenty of simple, inexpensive field guides for birds out there. These tools will make getting started in bird watching much easier!
3. Make a game out of it. A great way to get your children interested in bird watching is to make it into a game. You can turn it into a scavenger hunt, bird bingo, or you can make a game out of identifying birdcalls. There are several apps and websites for learning different birdcalls.
4. Participate in bird counts. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society have an annual event called “The Great Backyard Count.” The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also has a program called “Project Feeder Watch.” By participating, you count the birds that you see in your backyard, take a record of them, and turn in the data to the organizations. You can visit their websites for more information on how to participate. It is always fun to see how many different species of birds you can record, and the data you turn in is valuable information for researchers!
5. Make it a family activity. One of the best ways to get your children into bird watching is if you get into it yourself! Help them identify birds, participate in the games and bird counts with them and take them to different parks to look for new species. You will be surprised by how fun of a family activity it can be!
It is important that we teach our children about being good stewards of God’s creation. Bird watching is a fun and simple way that we can introduce our children to the beauty of nature, and spark their interest in caring for the environment. Birds truly are amazing creatures, and watching them in their natural habitat is definitely more entertaining than the television!
Caleb Blake studied Wildlife Ecology and Management at Auburn University, currently lives with his wife and dog in Jackson, MS, and is an avid bird-watcher.