You don't have to go to Australia to watch birds though. The great thing about this activity is that it can be done anywhere at any nearly any time. After all, birds are natural explorers. You often don't have to leave your neighborhood or sometimes even your yard. Here's how to go bird watching with your kids.
1. Get a Field Guide for Your AreaThe Audubon Society is chock full of information on birds. For instance, its website offers field guides for different regions in North America; head here to find the birds common in your region. The pictures of the birds will make it much easier for you and your kids to identify them. You can also click on the pictures to hear the different sounds they make. There is also information on topics such as their feeding behavior and how they nest. Your local library is a great place to borrow field guides, too.
2. Pick Up a Pair (or Two) of BinocularsEven Superman would benefit from binoculars while bird watching, so you and your kids definitely need them. You'll probably do fine with a traditional black pair, but be sure to get kid-friendly binoculars for the little ones. For example, the binoculars need to be light enough that kids can use them without a problem and durable enough that they can withstand the inevitable accidents with the ground.
3. Sit, Wait and ListenBird watching does require a bit of patience, but, fortunately, there are always birds close by. Perk up your ears; chances are good you will hear birds before you see them. Remember to use the details from your guide book to figure out if the birds you are hoping to spot tend to be in trees, on water or on the ground.
4. Attract Birds to YouCreating a bird-friendly yard is one of the best ways to bird watch long term. To draw hummingbirds, plant flowers such as harebells and red flowering currants. This chart lists hummingbird-friendly flowers. Other ways to get avian visitors are to hang seed feeders and birdhouses. For example, while at the Australian Koala Foundation, the EnviroKidz team helped the organization nail reused items such as a boot to create a sustainable birdhouse. Create your own from varied items such as tea cups and pine cones.
5. DocumentDocumenting your finds is an important part of bird watching. Kids can check off birds they have seen and those they really want to see. Encourage them to make their journals entirely their own. If they want to draw birds, they can -- and they should keep their journals handy near windows where they are likely to spot birds. Bird watching promotes togetherness, a love and respect for nature and exercise. Even better, it can be done any time of the year, so get some guides and start taking your kids out to look up at the sky!
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