6 Tips for Backyard Birding with Kids
Backyard birding is just as fun for me as for my kids. I was out for my walk this morning, wow it’s hot, watching all the kids riding their bikes and walking to the first day of school. I live in a typical suburban neighborhood in Plano, TX. We have a great park by our elementary school and a drainage ditch that has been turned into a series of attractive ponds. Not only are they attractive to the eye, but they also attract all kinds of wildlife. My husband and I often lament that we live in a flat, suburban area and not near mountains or the ocean (places we have lived together and enjoyed before.) But while we might not enjoy the scenery and cooler temps of other areas, we have enjoyed the Backyard Birding opportunities and the variety of wildlife we can see in our area.
I married into a family of bird watchers, you know the kind that never go anywhere without binoculars, that travel to the far reaches of the earth to see some elusive bird and need a large sign on the back of the car that reads “Caution! I brake for birds.” While I don’t think I will ever be that serious, I do enjoy seeing new birds and knowing more about the ones where I live.
On my walk this morning as I passed the ponds, a bird caught my eye. I knew it was a heron of some kind but didn’t look familiar.On my walk this morning as I passed the ponds, a bird caught my eye. I knew it was a heron of some kind but didn’t look familiar. I came home and got out our well-used copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds (best bird book ever, add it to your Christmas list!) and discovered that it was in immature green heron.We had never seen this bird here and perhaps it was just passing through. It was beautiful and sat still while I took a picture with my iPhone.
Of course, my photo was not the great! Here is a beautiful one from Nature Niche Photography.
This is just one experience of seeing new birds in our neighborhood, but pay attention to what you are seeing in your backyard, too. While binoculars or a viewing scope are normal tools of the bird watching fanatic, they are not necessary for enjoying backyard birding. However, kids love binoculars and this is a fun way to teach them to use them.
Some of the more common and fun birds in our yard are: cardinals (we have a family that has been nesting in our yard for years and it’s fun to watch the babies fledge and begin to fly), Eastern blue jay, Carolina wren, thrasher (these are hysterical, they will get down into a pile of leaves and literally start thrashing, tossing leaves about and looking for bugs), sparrows and cedar wax wings. Plus, we have several types of hawks who live and hunt here as well including the red-tailed hawk, which nests in the soccer lights at our local park, and a gorgeous Cooper’s hawk that I often see swooping from roof top to roof top. See photo below.
5 Tips for Backyard Birding with Your Kids
1. Look more closely at the birds in your yard. What color are they? What size are they? Are they on the ground or in a tree?
2. Invest in a good bird book with excellent photos (check out Half-Price books for used copies of The Sibley Book.)
3. Invest in a decent pair of binoculars if your kids are interested. We will sometimes get orioles passing through high in the tops of our hackberry trees and need binoculars to see them clearly. These are brightly colored orange and yellow birds, always a treat to see!
4. Research different birds on the internet that are common to your area. Then keep an eye out for them in your yard or neighborhood.
Here are a couple of websites to get you started:
Texas Parks & Wildlife has a starter book and great info on their website.
5. Investigate plants/flowers that attract certain types of birds. For example, hummingbirds love honeysuckle and the cedar wax wings devour our ligustrum berries every year.
6. Start a family journal of birds that you find with the name of the bird and the date you saw it. Soon you will find yourself seeing birds everywhere!
Next time you take your kids for a walk, listen for the sounds of the birds, the colors and remember to look up to see what’s over head. Backyard birding is fun, educational and often entertaining.