According to a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, birding is the fastest growing outdoor activity in the nation, and both kids and adults are getting into the action. Oftentimes, we may find ourselves spending less time outdoors and in nature during the winter months, but birding provides an allure to the young and old(er) to throw on a coat and hat and go exploring. Here are a few tips to encourage bird watching for children, while providing additional motivation for adults, too:
1.) Link birding and technology. Let’s face it, kids and technology go hand in hand. There are a number of great ways to use smartphones as you look for birds, and this combination will help bring your “digital natives” on board. These include great birding applications (apps) that help identify birds by sound and/or sight such as iBird, Merlin and the Sibley eGuide to Birds. The BirdsEye app is a handy tool to find places where birds can be found, and you can even search for a particular species and where to find them. The eBird app from Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology allows users to share their observations so that scientists can track bird populations.
2.) Give the gift of birding. Oftentimes, a prop or tool can bring greater interest for kids in outdoor pursuits. Rather than giving a young child a pair of binoculars they might not be able to use, check out Kidnoculars from GeoSafari Jr. These are perfect for young birders, as they have fixed lenses (no need to focus) and plastic molded goggles that guide kids to hold them correctly. Keep these and also the Wild Birds Unlimited Window Bird Feeder in mind for gifts this upcoming holiday season.
3.) Join ecoEXPLORE. The Arboretum’s citizen science initiative is currently celebrating Ornithology Season with a series of public programs both at the Arboretum and at several branches of the Buncombe County public library system. Children can sign up at ecoexplore.net to start photographing birds and earning points, which are redeemed for field tool prizes, such as binoculars, bird feeders and more. Pack Memorial Library will be hosting a special program on December 3 in honor of Ornithology Season, and participants will soon be able to borrow spotting scopes, trail cameras and more from this library branch as it becomes a new ecoEXPLORE LoanSpot.
4.) Welcome songbirds to your own backyard. There are a wide variety of birds that can be viewed more easily at feeders in the winter than during other seasons. Whether you simply throw birdseed out your back door, purchase and place feeders around your backyard, or hang up handmade feeders made of reused cartons and jugs, feeding birds is a great way to keep children engaged with the natural world in the winter months. You can learn more by joining in on the Arboretum’s free, guided family program, Bringing Birds to Your Yard on Saturday, November 19, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Arboretum’s Baker Exhibit Center.
5.) Take to birding like a duck to water. Winter offers a chance to spot birds in the mountains of Western North Carolina that you won’t find during other seasons. As northern lakes freeze, ducks, swans and other waterfowl can be found in our region. As winter progresses, take a look at local birding spots including Owen Park, Lake Tomahawk, Lake Julian and Beaver Lake for ducks such as redheads, ringnecks, gadwalls, buffleheads and more.
Interested in learning more about winter-friendly outdoor children’s activities? Read this recent blog post to find ways to shake off your kid’s winter blues.