Introducing Kids to Bird Watching

Introducing Kids to Bird Watching

Do you remember when you first showed an interest in the great outdoors and the wildlife around you? I remember as a young child, my mom being excited that there was a nest of cardinals in the forsythia at the back end of the yard. No pruning that year. There were so many birds that she didn’t know. She went to the library for a field guide and together, we spent hours looking at all the different species and their habitat. I remember the walks that my dad and I went on through the Don Valley, when there was no DVP and hardly any homes around. You could see foxes, deer, ducks, jays, dragon flies, frogs … and the list goes on. My friends and I used to get up before dawn and treck down into the valley to take plaster casts of bird and animal foot prints. As I grew older, I never lost perspective of the nature around me, but gained an appreciation and enjoyment. I have learned that the 3 R’s are not necessarily reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic, but if need be, RESCUE, REHABILITATE and RELEASE! These values, I have instilled in my children as I hope they will do for theirs.

While every interaction is unique and rewarding, it’s thrilling to see a child’s face light up with natural curiosity.

If you enjoy birds, I encourage you to reach out to the youth in your area. You don’t have to be a bird or kid expert to share birding with others. Enthusiasm is the key to opening the door for the naturalists of tomorrow.

Birds and animals are the perfect hook for getting kids interested in nature, because they’re everywhere.

Backyard bird feeders are a wonderful place to start. I remember spending hours on my parents deck in Bracebridge watching the goldfinches, jays and evening grosbeaks. Children are mesmerized by nature, so a window into that world is all you need to get them started on this lifelong hobby.

Neighborhood parks provide much more than a patch of green to walk in. They offer endless potential for observing birds, butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, toads, sticks, rocks, leaves and more. Many parks also have wetland areas, and since water birds are often large and conspicuous, ponds are a good place to start with beginning birders.

Go beyond the ordinary when looking for bird watching spots. City dumps, sewer lagoons and even cemeteries provide surprising opportunities to see lots of birds. Or head out biking, hiking or kayaking for a change of pace.

Birding isn’t a solitary hobby. When you see an unusual bird or get to observe its entertaining behavior, you want to tell someone. Kids are the same way.

Find a bird walk to attend. Many local bird clubs, nature centers, parks and wildlife refuges offer regular walks. Staff naturalists are a great source of information and are delighted to see families out and about in nature.

Attend a banding demo offered by a bird observatory or other nature organization. Beyond providing stunning looks at birds, these programs connect audiences with the joy and beauty of birds in a way no picture or video can.

Take a trip to Science North in Sudbury, hike the old rail line in Algonquin Park, visit Pelee National Park.  Stay close to home and visit Second Marsh Wildlife Area in Oshawa a habitat providing  food and cover for over 380 plant species, 305 bird species, numerous species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and hundreds of species of insects.

Keep an eye out for festivals with kid activities. Birding festivals are often looking for ways to get families involved.

North KawarthaEncourage exploration, and never pass up an opportunity to discover something in the natural world. I’ve been on may a nature outing with the kids, where the highlight of the day wasn’t a bird at all. Perhaps the glimpse of a fl­ying squirrel—or something as simple as a caterpillar or pretty stone or a slithery snake—became a lifelong memory.

Skip the identification altogether. Try having a bird behavior scavenger hunt without the pressure of pinning down an exact species. Ask kids to watch for dozens of behaviors, from preening and perching to walking and hopping.

Always remember that it’s about the kids. It’s not about the birds, though they certainly are a hook. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing children explore nature. Embrace this, and get out there with your children, your grandchildren or perhaps the neighbor kid down the street. Together we can ensure that future generations will understand and appreciate the magical chorus of frogs and the allure of the old watering hole that keep us in tune with nature.

6 Responsesto “Introducing Kids to Bird Watching”

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