Contributed by the Portland Audubon Youth Team
With many of your favorite activities still on hold this summer, Portland Audubon recognizes families are in need of new, fun and easy outdoor activities to do with their kids. Now is the perfect time to start birding!
Really, the only two things you’ll need to get started are your powers of observation and a simple field guide. At Portland Audubon, we created a free, digital Kids Guide to Oregon Birds with pictures, fun facts, and bird calls for some of Oregon’s most common feathered visitors. Below are 7 extra tips to maximize your senses and become a Super Birder — one for each day of the week!
1. Find a Lookout Post
Do you have what it takes to freeze time? Search your backyard or neighborhood for a secret spot, and stand or sit for 10-20 minutes, noticing all of the birds you can find. You’d be amazed what you can see and hear in just a few minutes of quiet. What are they doing? Do different birds behave differently? Return day to day, and bring a pencil and paper to track your observations in a journal.
2. Make Your Own Binoculars
Activate your super sight! Make your own pair of binoculars with two toilet paper rolls and hit the streets to observe birds. It won’t make the birds bigger, but these simple binoculars will help you concentrate on what you see. Look high and low to find some of Portland’s most popular birds! Notice the patterns on their feathers, the shapes of their beaks and the size of their bodies as you figure out what their job in their habitat is!
3. Let the Birds Come to You
Create your own animal magnetism. Build a simple bird feeder by rolling a pinecone with crisco (or peanut butter) and bird seed. Hang it up in your neighborhood, away from any big windows, and see a diverse array of birds flock to the buffet!
4. Find the Right Field Guide
Knowledge is the ultimate power. Once you are hooked on birds and want to know more, use a field guide to dive deeper! Learn cool facts about each of the birds, where they live and much more. Start making lists of all the birds you see and one cool fact about each of them. Look at That Bird! A Young Naturalist’s Guide to Pacific Northwest Birding is a great first field guide.
5. Use Catchy Phrases to Memorize Calls
Elevate your ears. Every species of bird has a unique set of calls or songs, and some sound very similar to English words. Many birders use mnemonics to help them recognize a bird just by its song! One popular bird is the American Robin. It sounds like they say, “Cheery-up, Cheerio!” Or the Red-winged Blackbird’s, “Pumpkin-eeeeater!” Make up your own song or phrase to match the sounds you hear in your neighborhood, and use the Merlin app on your smartphone to figure out what bird you heard.
6. Build a Nest
You might see bird nests on your walks; look high and low for them. Collect sticks and other natural material to see what it takes to make a replica bird nest of your own. You can also use your binoculars to observe different nests and think about why different birds would use different materials and strategies to build their nests!
7. Visit Cool Wetlands and Parks
The key to finding species in summer is to try to stick to areas near water. You’re likely to spy Great Blue Heron, egrets, swallows galore and so many ducklings! Places like Whitaker Ponds Nature Park, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Smith and Bybee Wetlands and Fernhill Wetlands are teeming with bird life and are great for kids to explore!