Kids and birds go together like peanut butter and jelly, and birding for kids is an easy, affordable family hobby.
Is there anything more fun than seeing a child experience the joy of discovery?
When children start really noticing and recognizing a bird’s colours, sounds, and habits you’ll see their faces light up as they make a real connection to the natural world.
They’ll be excited and proud of each new discovery (and you’ll be happy to see the electronics losing a bit of ground.)
Benefits of Birding for Kids
Inspires a Love of Nature
Bird watching takes children away from the stress of urban life, connecting them with the tranquility of nature. This connection promotes a sense of mindfulness and environmental stewardship.
Observing birds in their natural habitats teaches kids to be patient and appreciate the small wonders of nature that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Builds Observation Skills
Bird watching requires patience and keen observation, which help kids develop focus and attention to detail.
As they track different bird species, they get better at identifying distinct characteristics and spotting elusive birds in their natural habitats. And their self esteem grows along with their skills.
Creates Family Time
Birding is a hobby the whole family can participate in, from the youngest to the oldest. All you really need to watch birds is a window to look out of.
Can Spark an Interest in Science
Birding for kids presents plenty of opportunities for learning. Kids can discover the basics of biology, ornithology, ecology, and geography, while also improving their knowledge of ecosystems and food chains.
Helps with Fitness
Birding often involves walking, hiking, or even climbing, encouraging kids to be physically active and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Someone found the skull of a small bird.
Birding for kids: easy ways to start
Your kids can begin birdwatching at home, just by looking at whatever birds may be in the area. Set up a feeder or bird bath where you can see it easily, grab a bird ID guide or app and you’re good to go!
The following birding resource include lots of fun activities to make birding for kids more fun (click titles to see.)
Bird coloring pages are among the many useful and free resource you can find online.
A cute printable journal for kids to keep track of the birds they’ve seen. Keeping a bird journal is a good way to help kids learn to observe and record details. As time goes on, they’ll be quite proud of their bird collection!
Some good ideas on introducing kids from two to teens to the fun of watching birds.
Some tips and games from Audubon experts for helping kids get interested in bird watching.
This article has some useful tips for helping kids learn to identify birds.
This article from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has an excellent list of books and resources provided by their Children’s Education Program Developer, along with a cute downloadable bird hunting activity sheet for kids to check off.
A world-renowned institution for bird research and conservation, offering resources for bird identification, behavior, and birding tips.
Tools to help engage young minds
Part of the National Audubon Society, this section provides engaging activities, bird facts, and educational resources for children interested in bird watching.
Created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Sleuth offers resources and activities specifically designed for educators and parents to engage kids in bird watching.
Discover fun bird facts, quizzes, and interactive games that will captivate young minds on the National Geographic Kids website.
This resource offers educational materials, activities, and bird-related curricula for teachers, parents, and young bird enthusiasts.
A collection of short and engaging audio stories about birds, perfect for introducing young children to birding for kids. The stories are listed by grade level and there are lots of them!
An extensive online bird guide with detailed information on various bird species, their habitats, and behaviors.
A comprehensive learning platform with interactive courses, videos, and tutorials on bird biology and behavior, ideal for older kids with a deeper interest in ornithology.
Cornell also offers (for sale) its eBird Explorers Curriculum Suite – a useful resource for teaching science content while participating in the eBird citizen-science project. Includes fun, hands-on lessons that connect kids to nature through the world of birds.
Smart Bird Feeder with Camera
Image of a Northern Cardinal taken by a Bird Buddy smart bird feeder.
Smart bird feeders are definitely a luxury, but they are super fun. These are bird feeders with a WiFi motion-sensor camera built right in.
When a bird lands on the feeder, the camera shoots a short video. Then it sends a notification right to your phone in real time.
Most also have rudimentary Artificial Intelligence that tries to identify the birds, but not very accurately in most cases.
The experience of getting eye-to-eye with a wild bird can be magical. As one happy owner says,
“This smart bird feeder makes me feel like I am the bird whisperer and the birds are eating out of the palm of my hand.”
More Books on Birding for Kids
There are tons of bird books for kids on Amazon, including coloring books, sticker books, backyard birding books, bird ID guides and lots more.
Kids love their screens – the free apps will help them identify birds and participate in citizen science. There are also a couple of affordable paid apps that are comprehensive bird guides.
Birding Away from Home
Once the kids are familiar with the birds at home, expand their horizons with a trip to the shore, a park or the mountains to see the birds of other habitats.
You’ll need to gear up for a field trip and will definitely need binoculars.
Younger children may have trouble holding them steady and learning how to focus, but they’ll grow into them.
Bird watching field trips are a great way to have family fun while watching birds!
You might be tempted to buy some cutesy "kids binoculars". Don’t waste your money on binoculars these. They are usually very poor quality and not a good investment. Choose based on these criteria instead.
The premiere birding book publisher offers its tips and advice on finding quality bird binoculars. (Avoid the cheap “Get in the Game” category.)
A good camera is a bit more of an investment but has many other family uses beyond birding.
You’ll also need
- A field guide or bird identification book or apps for your phones
- A bird journal or notebook
- Snacks and water
- Sturdy clothing including hat, rain gear and waterproof boots
- Bug repellant and sunscreen
- First aid kit or Band-Aids
- Your cell phone
A Few Words About Safety
American black bear (Ursus americanus) at Jasper National Park Credit Thomas Fuhrmann (CC BY-SA 4.0)
When setting off on a wilderness hike, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. If you get lost or hurt and can’t get back home, your loved ones need to know where to look for you.
Any park or natural area is home to thousands of different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and other wildlife, especially bears. This article has some great tips on enjoying the wild world without unpleasant encounters.
Finding Birds to Watch
Check out the best times of day and year to see the most kinds of birds.
The basics about birding in the field and a calendar of birding events in US national parks. The map on this page doesn’t work but the calendar, down at the bottom, does. Find something near you and take the whole family!
Search by state or province for areas known for large and varied bird populations.
Lots of national parks have bird programs for kids and families. This page has a calendar and search function that tells you which programs are happening in various parks. You can search by state or event type.
From bald eagles to spoonbills, from condors to puffins, birds abound on national wildlife refuges. This page also has some awesome photos of birds
Bald eagle preparing to fly at Kachemak Bay, Alaska, United States Credit: Andy Morffew (CC BY 2.0)