If we take the time to sit and observe, birds are fascinating creatures.
Here are several bird watching activities for kids you can try with your family to open their imagination to the world of birds.
Bring the birds to your world
To make your bird observations a bit easier, let’s welcome birds into the yard with a homemade bird feeder.
One option for making a bird feeder is to simply spread peanut butter on a pinecone or other object, roll it in birdseed and then hang in your yard. Something a little more fun and interesting is this upcycled bird feeder made from an empty milk or juice carton.
Materials you’ll need:
• Empty milk or juice container
• Paint (if desired, or you can use stickers or paper to decorate)
• Small branch or dowel rod
First, carefully wash out the container with water and allow to dry completely. Cut out a window on one side of the carton. If you want to paint the container, mix a small amount of dish soap with your paint to keep it from peeling off the container. If you’d rather, you can decorate the container with stickers or cut out shapes from foam core and glue them on the birdfeeder.
Poke holes through two sides of the container (below your window). Insert the branch or dowel through the holes to create a perch. Now punch a hole in the top of the container and thread the hole with yarn or string. Use that to hang your birdfeeder outside. Before hanging, remember to fill the bottom with birdseed. Hang and enjoy!
Grab a paper and pencil to take notes as you watch the birds at a bird feeder or other place they like to hang out. Keeping still and quiet, try to focus on one bird and don’t take your eyes off of it. Make up a name for your bird, and see if you can answer the following questions about it. (A parent or friend can help by reading you the questions while you watch.) If you lose sight of your chosen bird, just look around and choose another, and keep working on the questions!
• What color is your bird?
• Does it have any spots, stripes, or speckles on its feathers?
• Is it making any sounds, and what kind? (See if you can make the same sound!)
• Where does it like to sit? On the ground? On a branch? In a chair?
• Does it seem to like the sun or the shade better?
• Does it like to be alone, or hang out with friends?
• What does it like to eat? Seeds? Insects crawling in the grass? Worms?
• How does it move from place to place? Does it hop or walk, run or waddle, or just flap its wings and fly around?
• Is its beak short or long? Thin or wide? Do you think it would work better for digging for worms or crushing seeds?
Continue the bird fun by creating a story about the birds you observe. Remember your bird’s name? Give it a family. Does it have a job? Where does it go when it flies off? Does it have hobbies, or play sports? The story can be fantasy (like the bird gets in his convertible and drives to work) or reality (the momma bird flies off to get food for her babies). There are no rules here. It’s just fun and a time to let your child use his or her imagination.
Take the next step:
Zach Zeneberg is the Executive Director and co-founder of Feathers Found, an Animal-Assisted Therapy nonprofit organization in Ann Arbor. Feathers Found’s mission is to improve the health of individuals in the community and promote the stewardship of the natural world by providing therapeutic interactions between people and rehabilitated birds of prey. Feathers Found works with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital to provide bird-related activities and programs to the hospital community. The kids love the experience!
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.