Our Editors independently research, test, and rate what we feel are the best products. We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.
Bird watching is a very enjoyable hobby and one which all the family can enjoy. Sometimes children will simply take an interest in their parent’s activities but a lot of the time they need some encouragement. Here are just a few ways to enjoy bird watching as a family.
The one thing children enjoy is getting their hands on their parents stuff, so the first thing is to get them their own. With bird watching this doesn’t have to be expensive, as all they need is a pair of binoculars and a good bird reference book.
If you get your children their own binoculars they will feel more involved in what is going on as they can look around to see birds at their leisure.
You don’t need expensive binoculars but do make sure that they are the right size for your child and easy for them to use. Before you take them birding, show them how the binoculars work and make sure that they are confident with the controls. Don’t forget a good wildlife camera to keep a record of your bird encounters for later.
A Bird Guide
There are many bird reference books available but buy one which is aimed at children so they can look birds up themselves.
When you first take your family out bird watching it can be helpful to take a snap of the bird with your phone. When kids first start looking at birds they may not know what to look for to identify them in their guide, so having a photograph helps them match it up.
Educate Before You Go
For children this is the most boring aspect of bird watching but essential if you want them to enjoy it.
You will need to tell them that they will have to keep quiet when watching birds and that the quieter they are than the more the birds may do. For example if they’re quiet, they may get to see the birds feeding or having a good wash in a bird bath.
They also need to know that they should never touch nests or remove eggs.
The best place to start bird watching is your own backyard.
You can encourage your family to help you set the garden up to be bird friendly and they can then sit and enjoy watching the birds any time they like.
- Give the children their own patch of earth to plant what they like. Explain which plants are best to encourage the birds in your area. Kids also love color so make sure they have a good colorful display to attract the birds.
- Get the children to help you set up a bird bath and they can let you know when the water needs changing.
- If you have a bird table it will need to be kept regularly stocked with seeds and nuts, which is a job all the family can do.
- A bird feeder is also an excellent way to encourage the family to watch birds in the garden. Everyone can help set up the feeder and keep it topped up with food while it is out.
- Nesting boxes are another wonderful way to encourage your family to enjoy bird watching.
Now your garden is ready, you can enjoy watching the birds that visit you with your whole family. You may be surprised yourself just how many species you get. You can also make a game of it and offer a prize to the first person who can spot 5 different birds.
Other Places To Go
This may be where a lot of families fail when it comes to birding. While you may be used to long walks and sitting waiting for birds, the rest of your family may not be quite so patient.
You need to start with shorter trips and as interest grows you can build up. Wherever you go, take snacks or a picnic.
- The park. Most areas have a park close by and this is a great place to start. The family will see different birds than those which appear in your own garden.
- A local river. If you live near a river or a lake you will find a wider variety of birds over water and the family can enjoy identifying new species which they won’t see in your backyard.
- A wood. If you live near woodland then this gives you the chance to show your family lots more interesting birds. If you go for a walk you can also look out for signs of birds such as feathers, droppings or nests.
Make it Fun
If you want to enjoy anything with your family it needs to be fun!
- Let them use their own bird reference guide when they see a new bird. They will take great pride in showing it to you.
- When they see a bird, ask them questions about it. Get them to tell you the colors on the wings, beak and feathers and what the bird was doing.
- Not all birds sound the same and children will love imitating the bird sounds they hear.
- Take a drawing pad and get everyone to draw any interesting birds. You can then have fun comparing the drawing to the picture in the guide
- Offer a treat to the first person to see five different species of bird or who can see the first bird with a certain color of feathers.
The best thing about bird watching is that while you’re out looking for birds your whole family will also get to see other wildlife activity.
They can also make their own nature box to keep mementos of the day out. This can include feathers, rocks, twigs and leaves.
Be Part of Something Bigger
Encouraging the family to be part of a big bird watching project can really give them an interest.
All over the country there are programs to keep track of the types of bird and the numbers that you see. Print off the sheet for your area and keep it in a place where all the family can have access to it. Every time somebody sees one of the birds they can mark it off and feel as if they are part of the wider birding community.