Fun for the whole family: Backyard Birding

Looking for something fun while staying close to home this summer? The whole family can enjoy backyard birding together with these quick tips. 

1-Make your backyard bird-friendly.  Install a birdbath and hang a bird feeder or two in your yard.  Even better if they are all visible through a window of your house. Be sure to keep them clean and filled. Helping with this task is something even the littlest can do.  Birds will feel safer with bushes, trees, or even a pile of branches nearby to protect them from predators. Be sure to choose a location that your pets don’t frequent. 

2-Find some pictures of birds that live in the area. Books, such as bird guidebooks, are a great place to start to put pictures with the names of the birds that live in your neighborhood. The local library has many wonderful bird books designed especially for children. Online resources can also provide photos and descriptions of local bird species. Start by learning the names of just a few, then head outside and see if you can find them in nearby trees.

3-Learn to identify birds by sound. Bird sounds are classified as calls, which are usually just one or two notes, and songs, which are longer and contain many notes and tones. Birds use calls and songs for different reasons. There are many online resources for hearing the sounds different birds make.  Or you can ask Alexa and Google Assistant to help you learn common bird calls and songs. One of the most distinctive bird sounds is the chickadee, which is abundant in the Willamette Valley. If you already know a few birds by sight, listen to recordings of their calls and songs, then head outside and see if you can hear any of these birds in your backyard. Take a walk through the neighborhood and listen for the bird calls you have learned. When you hear one you know, see if you can locate the bird with your eyes. 

4-Be curious!  When you see a bird, watch what it does.  Can you figure out why it is behaving that way? Which sound is it making – a call or a song?  Can you figure out why?

5-Keep a log.  Keeping a record of the birds you’ve observed can be a fun way to track the different birds that come and go in your neighborhood.  Do you see different birds out and about in the morning? Do you see more or fewer birds in the evening? A log can help you see patterns and make observations about the birds in your neighborhood. Invite your older kids to make the entries in your family’s bird log.  They can even draw a picture of the birds that you see.

6-Play games. There are many games that can be adapted to bird watching. For example, create a bingo grid, with each square containing the name or picture of a common Oregon bird. Use markers (coins, small squares of paper, or even crayon to color in the square) to indicate which birds you see. Find five in a row? Bingo!

7-Expand your viewing with online live streams. Check out some of the many webcams that stream views of bird nests around the country.  For example, check out the Decorah (Iowa) eagles or look in on sea birds at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  For more options, check out this collection of live stream feeds.

On the go, or close to home, enjoy some bird watching as a sweet addition to your next trip outside.

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own. She loves writing on parenting and early childhood education. You can learn more about her at: www.lynnebrownwriting.com.