Bird Watching


  Sometimes all we need to enrich our lives is to just take the time to stop and look around us.  There is so much to appreciate!  Bird watching is one of those wonderful pleasures.  The more you look, the more you notice and the more you notice, the more you enjoying looking!

   Here’s my own example. I had enjoyed watching my bird feeders for many years. It was a friend, however, who mentioned to me how she loved the “chestnut backed chickadee”.  Gee… I knew what a chickadee was, of course, but was surprised to hear that the black-capped chickadee was not the only one here in the Lower Mainland.  At that time, we kept our feeder at the end of the garden and so one chilly winter day, after I filled it with seed, I simply stood still and waited. What a wonderful surprise! How could I ever have “not noticed” before! Some of the chickadees had a distinctly reddish-brown back, while others were quite grey.

   A few years later, after moving to a house where I put a feeder right next to our kitchen window, I noticed something else. Both varieties of chickadee would fly to our window feeder with a distinctive up and down lilt, but we noticed that the black capped chickadees liked to take one seed and head directly back to the trees.  The chestnut backed chickadees, however, often stayed at the feeder, put one seed between their feet, and pecked at it right away!  After many months of observing this discovery, I then found that MOST of the chickadees were staying at the feeder longer.  Hmmm…. perhaps the chestnut backed were just “braver” in the beginning.  Who knows, but the fun of watching and observing closely was certainly great entertainment!

   What does this have to do with the classroom?  I was fortunate to be moved from one of the larger classrooms at the back of the school to a smaller room, in the now deemed “Primary” section at the other side.  How was this fortunate? A new view of a nearby evergreen tree stretched my classroom out into the yard!  We hung up an inexpensive bird feeder, added a plastic feeder right on the window and I created the student monitor job of “Ornithologist” in the list of classroom “helping hands”.  Every student learned to recognize common birds, and it seemed that each year brought new species to our window view. (Good heavens… it ranged from the tiny bushtits to the huge pileated woodpecker, and one year, DUCKS nested and raised their ducklings in the bushes right outside our classroom!)

   Several parents came back in later years to tell me how their family still enjoyed becoming “birders”.  Some even admitted that it was their Grade 2 child who taught them how to recognize a chickadee, or identify male versus female juncos.  Of course, I was thrilled to think that they were simply “taking the time” to enjoy and learn about the world right there around them!  The BC Ministry of Education encourages our students to become “lifelong learners”, but parents sometimes need that reminder as well!  So, if you haven’t had taken the time lately to explore the world of our local birds, just think about this article as you take your next walk. If you already enjoy this pastime, think about sharing your knowledge! Why not participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count or join eBird, a free online bird tracker! 

Getting Started…

So… how does a “non birder” start to recognize different birds?  Interesting birds can land in front of you and then disappear in seconds.  Furthermore, the “bird book” is usually at home, not in your pocket! 

Here are some tips for things to take note of.
Size:  Think about the relative size compared to a common bird such as a sparrow, robin or crow
Colour: Notice the colour of the body, but also the head, breast, legs, beak if possible
Shape: Is it long and slender or plump? Is there a crest or tuft on the head? Is the tail forked or rounded?  Is the beak thin or wide?
Field Marks: Look for eye stripes or eye rings, bars on the wings or tail
Movement: Is the flight path straight or wavy? Does it flick its tail?
Song: Can you notice any details of the song?

What if you’d like to attract just a few birds to your yard for fun?  Containers can be made from recycled milk cartons and so on, but the easiest feeder is simply a large tree cone (pine cone, spruce cone etc) covered in a layer of peanut butter, rolled in bird seed, and hung from a tree.  If you have peanut allergies, use 2 rounded Tbsp lard/Crisco mixed with 1 Tbsp molasses.  Squirrels can be a nuisance, so try to hang the cone away from other branches. Remember as well… the month of May generally marks the return of the bears and they love bird feeders too!


BirdSource: Birding with a Purpose
"BirdSource is a revolutionary partnership between citizens and scientists. It is designed and managed by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. BirdSource is an interactive website where the enthusiasm of birders is combined with state-of-the-art technology to promote conservation and environmental learning."

Cornell University  “All About Birds”  has a wonderful online guide to birds

Novice and experienced birders can both enjoy adding their bird sightings online to eBird

Project FeederWatch
"Project FeederWatch turns your love of feeding birds into scientific discoveries. FeederWatch is a winter-long (November-April) survey of birds that visit feeders. Your count helps scientists track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance."

Audubon Society
"The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation."

Birding software—I highly recommend the Thayer programs
NOTE: Because of the current Covid-19 pandemic,
Pete Thayer is offering his Birds of North America FREE! What a kind gesture!

Thayer's top 30 birding websites.

American Birding Organization

Wild Birds Unlimited: Nature Shop
Birding information and supplies.
Our objective for is to create a best of breed site that provides information about “all things Birds”  and make available, a gathering place for all bird enthusiasts, hobbyists, nature lovers, and conservationists.

Bird Watching Guide
Here's a nice little "how to" on beginning birdwatching!
Thank you to Tyler of the Green Teens Club for passing along this fantastic resource!
There are excellent instructions for all ages!

Beginner's Guide
Thanks to new birders Nicole & Jenny, in Portland Oregon
for passing on this beginner's guide!

Bird Feathers of North America
Thank you to Troup Leader, Nick H., and
the Lake Jennings BSA Troop 325
for this great resource link!
Congratulations to all members of the
Boy Scouts of America
who are earning their Bird Study Merit Badges!

More Birding websites!

Top 100 birding sites

(Seeing as I haven't put together my webpage on Hummingbirds yet!)

Attracting Hummingbirds - a fun activity for families


Back to Nature's Classroom index

This page created July 2020
updated August 2021 .


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