There is no better way to bond than to share memorable experiences with your children or grandchildren, or even better, with both. Bird watching is one of the best opportunities to do this. Watching birds build a nest, hatch their eggs, feed their young and seeing them take flight for the first time is an amazingly rewarding lesson. It shows what we, as parents, do over many years in a very short time span. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started.
Attracting Birds You can start in your backyard, no need to hyper prepare, a few crumbs, a few seeds, a bit of fruit and you will have guaranteed visitors. A bird feeder, strategically placed, can entertain you and your loved ones for hours.
What Are We Looking At The fun part is to let the children figure out what they are looking at. Make them aware of the differences. What color are the feathers? Are the wings a different color than the body? Are there any markings on the chest? What shape does the beak have? Is the beak short or long, is it pointed or blunt? What color is the beak? If you don’t know what bird you are looking at there are multiple ways to go about becoming bird savvy. You can educate yourself about the species in your area either with the internet, by checking out a book at the library or by buying a book with illustrations of your local birds. The children have fun hunting for the right bird in the book and it gives them a sense of accomplishment when they find it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t give them hints to make it easier. Since this is a game you’re playing with them it makes learning fun and a lot more memorable.
What Do We Know About This Bird So now that they know which bird they are looking at, let them observe the bird’s behavior. Can you see what it’s eating? Is it going for the crumbs or the seeds? Which seed is this one going for? Is it eating the fruit? Is it catching insects? Not only are they learning to observe the birds and their habits, they are also honing their concentration skills. The best part is they don’t even know it because it’s fun.
Bird Bonding Once they are hooked, you can elaborate the show by adding a nesting box. You can either buy it or make one . Bluebirds are grateful renters and willing to occupy the man-made dwelling. Once they get started it is an amazing thing to watch them nest, see the naked babies emerge and to watch them grow prettier day by day, until they are ready to take flight. You may not see all stages the first time but there’s good news. Bluebirds have at least two broods a year and if you’re lucky even three. And if they miss out on something this year, there’s always next year.
Bird Discovery Hiking This is my favorite way of motivating my grandchildren to go hiking with me. Now that they have learned to identify the different birds of our region at the back yard feeding places, it’s time to test their knowledge in the wild. See who can spot the birds out there first. Once it’s spotted, who can tell you what it is? If you haven’t seen it yet means they are getting to know a new bird. Don’t spoil the fun by telling them what it is. Tell them to look closely and remember what they see so later, once you’re all back home and comfy, they can find the birds they saw in the book or online, whichever version you are using. So now that I’ve told you my secret to keeping the children occupied and happy it’s your turn to get the family together and do some serious bird watching and family bonding.
[Article by Ernie Allison, Image by Bruce McKay Yellow Snow Photography]