I am not a birdwatcher. However, I enjoy observing birds with my kids. We have birdfeeders hanging outside our dining room window. A visit by a goldfinch or downy woodpecker livens up an otherwise ordinary breakfast. We get excited when we spot birds on hikes. Now that summer is here and our windows are flung open at night, we pause to listen to birds calling outside the kids’ windows as I put them to bed. Here are my favorite picture books for encouraging kids to pay attention to and enjoy birds.
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill and John Sill. A fantastic introduction to birds written by a former elementary school teacher. About Birds introduces the basic defining features of birds and includes lovely, realistic illustrations of birds that can be used to teach kids to identify birds. An afterward includes additional interesting facts about the birds depicted in the illustrations. Ages 2+
Vulture View by April Sayre and Steve Jenkins. I love that this book introduces kids to turkey vultures — a fascinating bird that kids are sure to notice but that have, until now, been overlooked by children’s book authors. Vulture View features Steve Jenkins’ cut paper collage illustrations. Ages 3+
Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey. An extremely informative non-fiction book about bluejays disguised as a work of fiction. In Two Blue Jays, students observe as two blue jays build a nest in a tree outside their classroom window and give birth to baby blue jays. This format — describing students attentively observing bluejays — works. My kids are drawn into the story and become just as fascinated about learning about blue jays as the students. Ages 4+
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. A classic story that my kids enjoy hearing again and again. Robert McCloskey was awarded the 1942 Caldecott Medal for his delightful illustrations of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their ducklings. Ages 4+
Riki’s Birdhouse by Monica Wellington. A young boy, Riki, attracts birds to his backyard by building a bird house, putting out bird food, and more. My kids are fans of Monica Wellington’s colorful illustrations. On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole, in which a girl transforms her stark suburban yard into an attractive backyard wildlife habitat, is another fantastic story to inspire kids to create wildlife habitat. Ages 4+
Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Birds by Jim Arnosky. An engaging, kid-friendly introduction to birdwatching and identifying common birds. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Birds is one in a series of children’s nature guides. Ages 4+
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. A beautifully told tale of a girl and her father going “owling” one winter evening. Jane Yolen’s illustrations of the young girl determinedly tromping through the snow are enchanting. Owl Moon will surely encourage other children to appreciate their own encounters with nature. Ages 4+
Welcome, Brown Bird by Mary Lyn Ray and Peter Sylvada. A lovely portrait of two boys connected by their love for a thrush. Every spring the thrush arrives at one boy’s home, surrounded by a North American hemlock forest, and every fall the thrush migrates to the other boy’s home, surrounded by a South American rainforest. Ages 5+
Backyard Birds of Summer by Carol Lerner. Backyard Birds of Summer and its companion book Backyard Birds of Winter include a series of informative essays about various types of birds and about attracting birds to your yard. These books are perfect for kids (and adults) who are fascinated by birds. Carol Lerner’s attractive, detailed illustrations are helpful for learning to identify birds. Ages 8+
Backyard Birds by Jonathan Latimer, Karen Stray Nolting, and Roger Tory Peterson. A fantastic first field guide for children! Backyard Birds includes several features to help children learn to identify birds themselves: a limited selection of birds that kids are likely to see, illustrations as well as photographs of each bird, and arrows pointing to bird features to look for when identifying each bird. Ages 8+
Three Fantastic Websites for Young Birders:
1) National Geographic Backyard Birding website — An excellent source of information about birds. This website includes a backyard birds quiz, a backyard birds identifier tool, and a backyard birds A-Z directory with information about numerous bird species (including recordings of bird calls!).
2) Project FeederWatch website — Home of Cornell University’s Project FeederWatch, a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders in North America. At this website, you can sign up to participate in Project FeederWatch. Children as well as adults are encouraged to identify and count birds that visit feeders and submit their data to scientists. All participants receive a bird identification poster, a wall calendar, and a bird feeding resource guide. In addition, the Project FeederWatch website has a Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch with wonderful suggestions for teaching kids about birds.
3) NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat website — Home of the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program. This website provides extensive information about attracting birds and other wildlife to your backyard and the opportunity to get your backyard certified as an NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat. My kids have been very excited about working towards the goal of creating a certified backyard wildlife habitat and, having just submitted our application, are looking forward to receiving a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat yard sign.