Become a Birder
Birdwatching is the perfect activity to get kids interested in nature because birds can be found everywhere! Whether you live in a downtown high-rise or out in the country, you’ve likely seen or heard one of our feathered friends close by.
So what does it take to become a birder? Believe it or not, birdwatching doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. You don’t need to know everything about birds to get started. All that you need is a keen eye, a few basic materials and your curiosity!
What You Will Need:
- Bird feeder
- Bird seed
- Bird ID guide, cards and/or online resources
- Binoculars (optional)
- iNaturalist and/or eBird apps (optional)
Share Your Experience to Earn a Birding Badge!
All you need to do is log into, or sign up for, your own WILD Family Nature Club account! Snap a picture of your family’s next birding adventure and upload it to the Gallery, or share your own birding tips with others on the Discussions page to earn a digital Birding Badge.
There is so much to see outside of your own window! By creating a bird-friendly environment at home, you can attract visitors to your balcony or yard.
Get started by purchasing a bird feeder to hang outside in easy view of a window, or build your own! Bird feeders provide a reliable viewing spot, which makes it easier for kids (and adults) to see and identify birds.
When you start seeing birds visit your feeder, ask yourself “do I know what kind of bird that is?”. Pay attention to the bird’s size, the shape of its beak, and any unique colouring or markings. These features will help you identify what is its.
By embracing your curiosity and taking time to get to know the birds that visit your home, your family will quickly grow its birding skills!
- Different seeds attract different birds. For help selecting the right bird seed mix for your feeder, check out CWF’s Feed the Birds.
- Sometimes birds mistake the reflections of trees, shrubs, and sky in glass for sky. Kids can help prevent birds from colliding with windows by creating decorative window stickers!
- Watch your bird feeder throughout the day to see what birds visit! If you have a pair of binoculars, set them by the birdwatching window and show kids how to use them for a close-up view of the feeder.
- Real binoculars can be hard for younger children to learn how to use. So they don’t feel left out you can help them make their own pair of DIY cardboard binoculars!
- Transform a notebook or collection of papers into a “Bird Journal” and encourage the whole family to add drawings and notes about the goings-on at the feeder.
- Need help identifying what you see? Pick up a Bird ID guide or check out CWF Wild About Bird posters to learn about some common Canadian birds.
- Remember, birdwatching should be fun! Practice imitating bird calls, incorporate pretend play, or take time for bird-themed arts and crafts!
- Become a citizen scientist! Support bird conservation by submitting your backyard bird observation to citizen science projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count or Project FeederWatch.
Once you and your kids have identified a few backyard birds, why not branch out? Plan a family outing to a local park or wetland so you can see birds in their natural environment.
While birdwatching in a natural area is a little more challenging, it’s a great way to embrace the feeling of exploration and discovery. Every outing is a new adventure because you never know what birds you’ll spot!
- Make it a game! Print off the names of a list of bird species in your area or create your own bird bingo sheet to see how many you can spot and cross off. It could be a short list that gets completed in one outing, or a longer list that you can work to cross off together over time.
- Not sure what to look for? Birds Canada has a tool that allows you to create a custom photo guide of common birds in your region by selecting your location and indicating the current time of year.
- Let your kids take the lead! Have them help choose which park you will visit or which trail to follow. While they lead the way, you can help by pointing to objects or areas of interest along the way.
- Take your time – don’t rush. By walking slowly you will see more birds, especially the quiet or skulking ones.
- While birds can be seen throughout the day, remember that they are usually most active around sunrise and sunset.
- Prevent kids from getting frustrated by reminding them that that birds can be hard to spot but are easier to hear. Have them close their eyes and listen. Can they tell where the birdsong is coming from?
- Striking out on live birds? Point out the signs they leave behind such as nests, cracked seeds, whitewash (poop), or owl pellets.
Visit a Bird Observatory or Interpretive Centre
Important Birding Aras (IBAs) across Canada provide critical habitat for specific groups of birds, including migratory birds and species at risk. While many IBAs are remote and challenging to access, others are home to bird observatories and interpretive centres which offer annual events, tours, birding banding demonstrations, and volunteer opportunities.
You can witness the epic shorebird migrations at Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre in New Brunswick or help monitor owl migrations at Beaverhill Bird Observatory in Alberta. To find a bird observatory in your area, a complete list is available here.
These opportunities and outings can not only help your family learn new tips and tricks for birdwatching, they are also great way to connect with experts and with other families who are interested in birding!
- Plan ahead! Some bird observatories and interpretive centres are only open seasonally or on weekends. By doing a little research in advance you’ll also avoid missing out on any upcoming events.
- Dress the part! Make your outing fun by letting kids wear a special “birding outfit”. This could include a fun sun hat, a cargo vest with pockets to hold different items, or a backpack with their own set of kid-sized binoculars.
- Some activities involve hiking and/or physical activity. Make sure to find an activity that fits your family’s needs and abilities or is flexible in case you need to leave early.
- Always dress appropriately for the weather and carry plenty of water with you, especially during warm times of the year. Depending on the time of day, you may also want to come prepared with sunscreen and bug spray.
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