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The Original 'Tweet'
October 28, 2012

The Original ‘Tweet’

By Susan Charkes

Birds are everywhere. They’re easily seen, colorful, and vocal. Year-round inhabitants of every environment—from cities to countryside, woods to seashore—birds are the most widely observed wildlife.

Introduce your kids to the fun of watching birds and they’ll have a hobby that will last a lifetime, traveling with them whenever they are outdoors.

Bird-watching can be as simple as pointing to a bird and asking your kids what color it is, then comparing it to another bird. Ask them to describe what the bird is doing: Eating? Flying? Singing? Can they sing the bird’s song? When you get back home, get out the crayons and have your children draw the bird.

As your child gets older, you can encourage a closer look at birds. Invest in a good, sturdy pair of binoculars; test them first to make sure they feel good in your child’s hands. If they’re waterproof, all the better. Both of you will be amazed at how much more detail you’ll see through the lenses. A good portable bird field guide will help further your investigation. Contemporary field guides are also interactive, including apps you can download with facts, pictures, and even bird sounds. For an online guide to learning about birds, check the Audubon Society’s website, audubonbirds.org.

In identification, a bird’s sound is as definitive as its plumage. Start by having your child listen for common year-round backyard birds, like the chick-a-dee-dee-dee of the chickadee or the cheer, cheer of the cardinal. After having picked up some songs, kids can graduate to forest-dwelling or water-loving birds. For these, you may need a sound-capable field guide. Lots of portable gadgets and smartphone apps can help your child identify bird calls and songs. But be aware that many parks and refuges prohibit playback—the playing of a recording of a bird song. Silence is golden when it comes to bird-watching, so use audio-enabled devices with caution and sensitivity.

Knowing which bird you’re looking at helps you understand what it is you’re watching. But bird-watching is much more than identifying the bird—and for some kids that may be the least interesting part of it. What’s the bird doing, and why? In nesting season, watch the birds as they court, stake out territory, gather food for the chicks, and teach their fledglings to fly. Many parks and nature centers have stations or bird blinds that are set up to make watching birds easy for kids.

 

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