Long time readers (waves) know that my oldest son is the one who got me into birding and now his brother is following in his footsteps. I get many requests to go bird watching and I try to make as much room in our schedule to accommodate my son's passion for his feathered friends. Along the way I've learned a few things about how to make a birding outing successful. (Note: this post contains affiliate links.)
Tips for Winter Birding with Kids:
Do your research:
Check out a lot of books on birds from the library. Kids get super excited when they can identify a bird species. I mean super duper excited. Kiddo's favorite is the The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, but there are many to chose from.
In particular, learn which birds spend the winter in your area. You can do this yourself with a quality field guide or visit your local parks information station.
Stalk the birds where THEY are:
Don't expect there to be lots of birds just because you are outside. It may take a bit of discovery to locate just which part of the park the birds like to congregate.
Find out if there are any large bird feeders in your area. You can make your own bird feeders, but nothing beats visiting a park feeder swarming with all sorts of bird varieties. Both of our large city parks have feeding stations - and we are never disappointed when we visit one of them.
Head for the water. Ducks are pretty reliable, but please, don't feed the ducks human food! It may be fun, but it is not good for them and true bird lovers will refrain from feeding them crackers and bread crumbs.
Get Professional Help:
Go on an official bird walk. The pros will take you to the good spots, give you tips on using binoculars and generally fill in when parents (like me) are birding novices.
Record and Review:
Encourage your kids to record their findings in a bird log. You don't ned to be a professional photographer to capture birds. My picks are always pretty grainy (and not blog-worthy) but Kiddo doesn't mind, he still prints them out and pastes them in his birding hobby book.
Between outings, read bird story books. It's fun to identify the various species in picture books. We have a few suggestions for bird books for kids.
Prepare your Equipment:
It should be obvious, but dress warmly, wear good walking shoes and bring snacks and water.
Nature walks are always more fun with a well-stocked field bag. If your child is old enough for a good pair of binoculars, I recommend going to a store to purchase them. You need to test them out, make sure they are a good fit for little hands and easily adjustable.
More Resources for Winter Birding:
The Great Backyard Bird Count. Kids love to feel part of something big. Join in the nation wide project to count birds in February.
If it's too cold to get outside, you can watch Cornell Lab of Ornithology's feeder cams! My sons love these! Click on that link to see the current LIVE offerings. This video is of two Ruffed Grouse visiting the Ontario FeederWatch cam.
Do your kids like birding? What are your tips for a successful winter bird-watching outing?