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Bird Nerding with a Kid

Posted in Bulletin Board
Chickadee

My oldest son Jack (5.5) has had an interest in nature for most of his life. Yes, we get outside a lot living down at Hallam Lake, but Jack is into books, videos and computers too. Nature shows like “Wild America” and “Zoboomafoo” by National Geographic, and bird and mammal field guides, have been a part of his afternoon quiet time for most of his life. During the past couple of years we have been identifying birds visiting our feeder. It began simply enough with magpies and robins, but our list has been steadily growing. When we were in Mexico two years ago we identified the Plain Chacalaca, calling it the “dinosaur bird” because of its loud prehistoric call. 



How do you teach a kid about birds? We started by having a field guide available at all times. Jack has thumbed through my Sibley’s since before he could walk or talk. Lately we have been working on how to use the index. This is a great activity for beginning readers as we learn alphabetical and numerical order as we look for a specific bird. My job is to give hints and ask questions, moving him along. He likes the challenge, ending with him finding the page of the bird we want to see.

 Jack seeing how close he can get to the turkey under our feeder Jack taking a peek out the window at Hallam Lake

Our next step is to enter the bird we see at the feeder or in our yard on a google document called "Jim and Jack’s Bird List." Click here to see our list.
 We type the date, name of species, and location where we saw the bird. Then we go to “Cornell Ornithology All About Birds” site, search for the bird and copy the link to our document. Then Jack can go back to the document at any time and access the bird calls, maps, pictures, and videos. It’s fun and he loves it.

~ Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs