5 Ways to Explore Backyard Birds

a child in a pink jacket and boots looks through binoculars

Birds are a fascinating topic for many kids. They are colorful, intriguing, and can have an array of beautiful calls and songs. Plus, they can fly. What's more, they can be found right in your own backyard. This makes it even easier for your kids to learn more about these intriguing creatures. If your children want to learn more about birds, then check out these 5 ways to explore birds in your own backyard.

1. Fill Your Bookshelves With Backyard Birds

The first way to explore your backyard birds is to fill up your bookshelves. After all, books are our favorite way to learn about almost any subject. There are loads of books that dive into the interesting lives of birds. Be sure to supply your kiddo with plenty of age-appropriate reading material all about birds. Here are just a few:

Encyclopedias and field guides are a perfect way to start as they will help your children explore the science of Ornithology. Bird (DK Eyewitness Books) has gorgeous photos of birds in their natural habitats. National Geographic Backyard Guide to North American Birds and the National Geographic Kid's Bird Guide of North America are both excellent resources. Also, the National Audubon Society has field guides for individual regions of the United States, and we love Birds, Nests, and Eggs (Take-Along Guide).

Bird story and picture books are a great way to capture children's imaginations. The Burgess Bird Book for Children is a classic tale of bird life told from the perspective of birds. An Eggs is Silent, as well as A Nest is Noisy, are both favorites around our home. The Birdwatchers and The Boy Who Drew Birds will also excite the bird lovers in your life.

2. Watch for Birds

One of the best ways to learn about birds is to watch them. So when you spot a bird, observe it. Note its colors, beak shape, and behavior. What sort of foods do you think it eats? What colored eggs do you think it lays? Write all of these questions and their answers down in a birding notebook while leaving some space on each page for sketches or photos of the birds you see.

Watching birds can be done while hiking or just sitting in your backyard. Either way, you may want to keep a birding backpack on hand. Here are a few suggested items to keep in your birding backpack:

    • Binoculars
    • Field guide
    • Pocket microscopes are handy if you come across feathers, scat, or eggshells
    • Pencil and notebook for jotting down your observations and sketching
    • Cameras for snagging a shot of your bird subject to be compiled into your notebook with your observations and notes

The Great Backyard Bird Count is another fabulous and free way to make the most of your backyard birds. This is a yearly event in which bird watchers of all ages count the birds they see from anywhere in the world. That also includes your backyard. This event, held in February of each year, helps track bird populations as they shift and change.

Did you know that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers live bird cams? The Smithsonian also offers migratory bird videos if there is a certain bird you want to see but perhaps doesn’t live in your area. There are even phone apps that offer birdsongs, because sometimes you don’t see the birds, but you can hear them.

3. Identify Birds by Their Features

There are a couple of key attributes that are unique to birds. Learning about these special features and how birds use them is an exemplary way of expanding one's knowledge about our feathered friends.

Beaks, by Sneed B. Collard III, will give your student a broader understanding of the reasons behind so many different shapes and sizes of beaks. For example, all raptors share certain beak characteristics, such as having strongly curved beaks with sharp edges. These beaks are adapted perfectly for capturing and eating their prey.

Feathers play an important part in keeping birds warm and dry, as well as in their unique ability to fly. Feathers come in different colors, markings, shapes, and sizes. Why? Because different feathers perform different tasks. The picture book Feathers: Not Just for Flying offers a wonderful look at the different uses of feathers.

Did you know that birds have hollow bones? Their incredible light weight is one of the key factors in their flight abilities.

Nest building is an intriguing behavior of birds. Mama Built a Little Nestlooks at some of the unique nests that certain species of birds build. Did you know that each bird species lays different colored and shaped eggs?

5 Ways to Explore Backyard BirdsYour kids can even attempt to build their own nests. Have them gather materials, such as:

  • Grass cuttings
  • Small sticks
  • Pine needles
  • Leaves

Let your child try to weave the nest items together. For added difficulty, have your child try to weave their nest with only two fingers to mimic a bird's beaks.

4. Attract Birds to Your Yard With Bird Feeders and Bird Houses

Make your own bird feeder or bird seed treats. We always make cookie cutter bird seed treats in the fall for hungry migrating birds. These are simply bird seed mixed with gelatin and then molded with cookie cutters. After hardening overnight, these bird seed treats can be hung outdoors for the birds to enjoy.

Buy a birdhouse to place in your yard. This gives a fantastic advantage for nest building and chick raising. You can either build your own birdhouse from scratch or with a birdhouse making kit.

Bird baths are also a lovely way to watch birds during the warmer months.

5. Play Games About Birds

Did you know there are bird games you can play for when Mother Nature doesn't want to cooperate, or maybe during lunch or quiet time? Bird Bingo, Professor Noggins Birds, and What Am I? Bird Trivia Gameare a few examples. Additionally, games offer a fun way to test what you know about birds. They are also great for just unwinding from a long day.

Maybe you think your kids can't learn about birds from a bingo game, but you need to guess again. My children have learned to identify red cardinals, turkeys, vultures, Canadian geese, robins, mourning doves, and goldfinches. Also, while watching documentaries, they have easily identified great bustards and birds of paradise, just from having played a bird bingo game.

Studying birds with your kids is a fabulous activity any time of year. There is so much to discover about ornithology from habitats, adaptations, behaviors, and even the uniqueness of individual bird species or groups. So get your little bird lovers excited by using bird activities, books, and features, right from your own backyard.

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About the Author

Erin Vincent • Nourishing My ScholarI'm Erin, an introverted homeschooling mom to two intense extroverted kids. We are child led with a heavy emphasis on read alouds, games, art, nature hikes, and hands-on everything! My kids just learn better when they can use their hands. You can find me at Nourishing My Scholar.

We traded the hustle and bustle of city life for the quiet that only farm life can provide. This creates a wonderful environment for our children, complete with chickens, goats, ducks, and cows. I'm a huge fan of Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls. When we're not homeschooling, you'll find me curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book or possibly enjoying a random dance party in the front yard to the newest Disney soundtrack.