It's no secret that bird watching is the favorite hobby of millions and considered to be one of the most inexpensive actvities a family can enjoy together. So why don't more urban families take part in this activty? Perhaps it is a lack of programs or perhaps it is simply that families living the fast-paced life in urban and even suburban areas are already feeling stretched thin with activities and after soccer, baseball, piano lessons, football practice, PTA, band, scouts, there simply isn't time for one more activity even if it is free and would get the whole family together.
So here's a few tips taken from a great book "Birding is For Everyone" by John C. Robinson. While his book primarily focus on reaching out to youth birders of color, his advice can be applied to just about all families.
- Next weekend, rather than lounging on the couch, take a trip to the local park with the family and see how many different birds you can count. Make a game out of it but make sure everybody gets some sort of small prize.
- Start learning bird calls together and practice them. Most are actually available on iTunes if you can believe it!
- Get your hands on a field guide for your area and when you see birds have the kids practice drawing them. Not only does this help with identification but it gives you the chance to talk about all kinds of things from artistic design to anatomy.
- Lastly look for things like nests, birds leaving and arriving (such as migrating with the seasons) or foraging and take the opportunity to explain the behaviors and how they relate to conservation.
Birding can become a treasured family activity, and once you get the hang of it you can branch out and begin to visit state and national parks. Keep logs of the birds you see and if they have anything special such as bands on their legs or radio/satelite receivers (which scientists use to track them). As you become better and more involved you may decide to attnd birding conferences held all around the country and purchase a good pair of binoculars or a birding scope.
So get outside and look up. You may be astounded by what you see!