Backyard Birding

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

The weekend started off when I took our four-year old to see the movie “How to Train Your Dragon”  (I think I liked it as much as she did)  and left the theater talking about what it would be like to fly. We did a craft project, taking a butterfly from egg to wings, and toppped Sunday off by going  for a bird-watching walk through the neighborhood and nearby woods.

With the arrival of spring in Minnesota, birds are everywhere!  Cardinals are singing outside as I type.  On our walk, we saw dozens of robins and woodpeckers.  A hawk soared over and a nearby crow cawed at a Turkey Buzzard that soared down too close to his meal.  I knew it was a buzzard because it was entirely black and I recognized the shape of its wingtips. 

Do you know how to tell what kind of bird you’re looking at?  The study of birds is called Ornithology and bird watching can be fun for all ages.

Why not go on a bird walk with your kids? Take a bird guide, if you have one, a notebook (their science notebook would be perfect) or a piece of paper and write down or draw what the birds you see look like.  Binoculars would be great too, but aren’t necessary.  Be sure to notice what color the birds you see are, special markings they might have, how big they are, and how their wings are shaped.  You can even memorize or record how their song sounds.  Do they sing ”chick-a-dee-dee-dee” or “who-cooks-for-you?”  If you feel like it, count how many robins or cardinals you see!

When you get home from your walk, you can use a Bird Identification book to look up your discoveries, or you can go online and use one of the many, interactive resources there.  I decided to use whatbird.com and allaboutbirds.org from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to try to identify the hawk that we saw.  Although I thought it was a red-tail hawk, I wasn’t sure.  Both websites were helpful.  Whatbird.com offered a visual search, where you could choose from different fields, like color and  wing shape to narrow your identification.  It worked pretty well, but didn’t seem foolproof.  Allaboutbirds.org had a field where you could search birds by name and shape, which had nice photos you could use to identify what you had seen.  Your kids could even make a guide of birds in your area!

So get those kids outside and let them hone their observations skills!  No one offers a better show at a better price than Mother Nature!

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