Encourage your aspiring birder with these bird watching for kids tips and activities!
Birds are beautiful and amazing creatures that live everywhere we do. Bird watching can teach us all about our feathered friends – what type of nests they build, what they eat, how they sound, or fly, and take care of their young. Our favorite bird fact? Birds are living dinosaurs! All birds are descended from Theropod dinosaurs that lived during the late Triassic Period. What weird but true fact can you discover? Learn how to begin your own family birding adventures with these tips and fun activities.
1. Gather your bird watching gear
Start by collecting your gear. We have a cotton tote bag that we keep all our equipment and supplies – ready to grab at a moment’s notice! For more details, check out our bird watching for kids book and gear recommendations at the bottom of this post. What you’ll need:
- An easy to use pair of kid binoculars.
- Your area’s field guide or birding app.
- Your bird journal to record your findings.
- Pencils, pencil crayons, and eraser.
- Hat, sunscreen, and kid approved bug repellent.
- A camera (optional).
- Backpack or tote bag.
- Water bottle for longer trips.
2. Get to know your field guide!
One of the most important resources to have at hand is a local Bird Field Guide. Your guide should be easy to use and include full color pictures of birds that are native to your region. Look for well organized descriptions including information on markings, diet, habitat, voice (what their call sounds like), and behavior. Individual range and seasonal maps can help you make that final decision between one species and the next. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Start by exploring the table of contents.
- Read the “How to Use this Book” section.
- Examine how the birds are organized. Most field guides are grouped by bird taxonomic family group. These birds share the same features. Others are categorized by the habitat they live in.
- Find the regional maps to see which birds live in your area.
- Note how your guide lists each bird’s unique features and other identifying details.
3. Study your neighborhood birds
The beautiful thing about bird watching for kids is we don’t have to go far to find our feathered friends. A great place to start is right in your own neighborhood. Becoming familiar with these birds will help you practice your children’s bird watching skills and appreciate how our own actions can effect the natural world around us. Ask yourself:
- What is the bird’s habitat (meadow, forest, pond)?
- What does it look like?
- What does it eat?
- Where does it nest?
- What does it sound like?
- What is its flight pattern?
4. How to spot birds
- Dress for success! Wear dull earth toned colors so that you blend in with your environment.
- Pick your spot. You can start right in your backyard or balcony. Many different birds live next to us each day. Other great locations are parks, on the trail, and near water.
- Move slowly and quietly. Birds get startled by sudden movements and loud noises.
- Listen for bird calls. Where is that song coming from? Learn how to identify the species by looking up these calls on birding websites like All About Birds.
- Look for source of food and birds will often be close by waiting for a snack.
- If you don’t spot a bird, look for bird signs like nests, egg shells, droppings, woodpecker holes, or owl pellets, and then see if you can spot where the bird is hiding.
5. How to identify birds
Now that we have learned how to spot birds, the next step is to identify the species. Ask yourself these questions and then look for a match in your field guide:
- How big is the bird?
- What is the bird’s shape? Look closely at the beak and tail. Knowing the size and shape of your bird will help you identify the bird’s family group.
- What color is it? What kind of markings does it have?
- What is it doing? Is it creeping on the ground? Pecking at a tree? Swimming in a pond? Is it alone or with a flock of birds?
- What habitat did you find it in?
- How does it fly? Does it hover? Zig-zag? Swoop and dive?
- What season is it? Birds you see in the summer may not be here in the winter.
- What does it sound like?
10 Fun Bird Activities
1. Make homemade bird feeders.
Invite birds into your backyard or balcony with these diy upcycled bird feeder projects.
2. Learn bird calls and see if they will respond!
3. Learn how to draw birds with a step-by-step tutorial.
4. Design a bird bath
Give birds a place to cool off with this easy DIY Bird Bath project from Kindergarten Connection.
5. Make migration-firendly window decorations.
6. Build your own nest boxes.
Get creative building your own bird nesting boxes and houses with this project listing from The Spruce. (Safety note: Please supervise children with carpentry tools)
7 Check out live bird cams.
The day is full of clouds and rain, no problem! Check out the Cornell Lab Live Bird Cams to witness the amazing world of birds from Ospreys, to Albatross, to little hummingbirds, and more. It sometimes takes a little patience, but having this intimate peak into bird behavior is definitely worth the wait!
8. Connect your family with a local Birding Club.
Share your family’s passion for birds and conservation by joining a local Birding Club. The American Birding Association has lists of Young Birder Clubs and other Birding Clubs and Organizations that are often open to all ages. My children have always enjoyed the mentorship of older generations who are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable!
9. Count birds and participate in Project Feeder Watch.
Project Feeder Watch is a November – April survey of the birds that visit our backyards and neighborhoods. Count the birds you see on your own schedule and enter the results online. New participants will receive a welcome package with a Bird Identification Poster, Calendar, the annual data report, as well as a digital subscription to Cornell’s quarterly magazine. U.S. residents pay a participation fee of $18 and Canadians can participate by donating to Birds Canada.
10. Plant a bird friendly garden.
Create a bird habitat in your garden by planting native plants as food sources, provide different layers of vegetation from low ground cover, to shrubs, and of course trees are a bird favorite! Dense plants can help birds feel safe and secure from predators. And don’t forget to add bird baths, bird houses, and feeding stations to attract even more of our bird friends. Check out this article from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for Twelve-Ways to Design a Bird-friendly Garden.
The Best Bird Watching for Kids Books and Gear
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Lightweight, compact, shockproof, with a soft rubber pad for eye comfort and travel case for storage. These binoculars worked well for my girls and were easy to adjust for a great fit. Unlike some kids binoculars, these also feature a focus wheel. The 8×21 high resolution optics give a nice clear picture. Available in 12 different colors.
We love National Geographic. This bird watching field guide for kids features full page profiles of 50 of the most common birds with beautiful full color photos and information on where they live, what they look like, sound like, migration behavior, and more. Another 100 birds are included with mini profiles. The guide is divided by habitat (i.e. backyard birds, city birds, water birds) instead of bird family groups.
Full of beautiful illustrations, this bird field guide for kids provides identification information on 20 of the most common birds like House Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Jays, and Pigeons. The guide is organized by bird color, making it best for our youngest bird enthusiasts to use.
Produced in association with the National Audubon Society, this bird field guide includes detailed information about North American’s most common birds along with fun birding activities and games for our kids. This is one of our favorite bird watching for kids resources.
Our Books and Willows Bird Watching Log Journal for Kids includes some of the tips and activities included in this post along with guided Bird Sighting record pages with sections for date/time, weather, location, habitat, name, size/shape, color/markings, voice, behavior and more. Each bird sighting record also includes a full page for adding photos or sketches. Pocket size 7″ x 10″ journal with a glossy cover. Printed version available through Amazon or go to our Etsy Shop to purchase the instant download and print from home for a discounted price of $2.50 US.
A cute and lightweight cotton tote bag to carry all your bird watching supplies. Generous size of 14″ x 17″ and machine washable. Please note this is not waterproof and is made of 100% cotton rather than a more durable canvas material. But, we couldn’t resist the fun bird pattern!