Birding is a great hobby for all ages to enjoy, and there are many things that kids can learn from birds that can help them throughout their lives. Not only can they learn directly from birds, but in becoming birders they will develop essential skills and be able to take advantage of other benefits of this great hobby.
Why Kids Love Birds
Children love all types of animals, from the slimy to the slithery to the furry to the fantastic. Not only are birds great animals for children to observe and learn about, but they also fascinate kids in a way that other animals can’t: birds can fly.
Flight itself is awe inspiring to a child, but birds also have a range of other fun characteristics that make them perfect for kids to enjoy, including:
- Color: Birds’ plumage comes in all colors, including metallic iridescent hues.
- Speed: All birds are swift flyers, and kids will love comparing the record-breaking paces of different birds.
- Song: Children who love music will be fascinated by the range of tones and pitches birds can produce.
- Personalities: Birds can be shy, intelligent, meticulous, aggressive or outgoing, all personality traits that young children can relate to.
With so many reasons to love birds, it can be easy to get kids involved in birding in fun and educational ways.
What Birds Teach Kids
While different types of birds can teach kids different things, all birds can be educational in several different topics.
- Diversity: With more than 10,000 bird species in the world, many of them coexisting in the same habitats, children can learn to appreciate diversity through birding. Each bird contributes to its own natural niche, teaching kids that everyone can have something to contribute to society, their families and their lives.
- Environmental Responsibility: It is easy to see how environmental catastrophes, natural or man-made, can impact birds. Children who care about birding will learn to be more environmentally savvy in order to protect different bird species and their habitats. Many conservation programs have youth activities, and even a young birder can make an impact in local and regional programs.
- Geography: Learning about different bird species including where they live and how they migrate will teach kids about geography. Why does one bird species live in a certain area of the country? Why do different types of birds take similar migration paths? What types of climates are best for the birds and where are they found?
- Food Chain: All birds need to eat, but not all birds eat the same things. Young birders who actively feed backyard birds can quickly learn about the food chain, and studying other wild birds can teach kids about predators, prey and the natural balance in food populations.
- Flight: The fact that birds can fly may spark interest in many young birders, but by observing birds they can learn much more about the mechanics of flight. A bird’s size, wing shape and behavior can influence its flight, and comparing different bird species can help children understand how different birds use flight effectively, and even why some birds prefer not to fly.
- History: The birds in the backyard may be here and now, but studying birds can actually teach kids a lot about history. Bird mascots, state birds and other symbols all have historical significance, and learning about extinct birds can connect human history with wildlife history.
More Benefits of Birding
The best part of using birding as an educational tool is that children are often so excited to be learning about their favorite animals that they don’t realize all the other learning they are doing at the same time. Studying birds and learning how to be a birder can teach kids great secondary skills, such as:
- Observation skills to find birds in the wild
- Listening skills to identify birds by their songs
- Deduction when comparing two challenging bird species
- Research skills for following clues to a bird’s identity
- Patience when waiting for birds to appear
In addition to these direct skills, birding is great for kids because it offers them the opportunity to be outdoors and in natural surroundings, and hiking to find new bird species can be fabulous exercise. Birding is a relatively inexpensive hobby and can even be free for the children if their parents are already avid birders. The most important benefit that kids can learn from birds, however, is that they will develop an ongoing appreciation for science and a love of learning that will be reinforced every time they see a new bird, spot a spring nest or fill a birdfeeder in their backyard.