My name is Chloe and I’ve been bird watching with my kids for a few years now.
If you’re a parent like me, you’ll know how hard it is to get the kids away from the TV, iPad and games consoles. But taking a quiet moment as a family to sit, watch and listen to birds is one of the best ways I’ve found to encourage them away from the screen and out into the lovely fresh air.
Plus, my kids love it. They observe and identify birds, listen to their song, take notes and often sketch and paint all the different birds they see after each session. It’s a really special time for us as a family, so I’d love to help you get started too!
With that said, here’s my beginner’s guide for bird watching with the kids. I’ve shared how to get the birds to come to your garden, what tools you’ll need (if any), my children’s favourite bird watching games & challenges and loads more!
How to attract birds into your garden
Although you can bird watch away from home, my kids get so excited when they see birds in our own back garden. Whether you’ve got a balcony, a small patio garden or a huge countryside lawn, there are loads of simple ways to encourage birds to visit your patch.
1. Set up a few bird feeders
Once you feed the birds, they’ll come flocking! To get started, why not install a bird table and/or put up a few hanging feeders in your garden?
Make sure to place your feeders in a quiet yet open area so that the birds have a good view of predators, such as cats. Give your feeders a regular clean, too, so that the birds stay healthy and disease-free.
I tend to feed them a seed mix, rather than a single type of seed, as this attracts a greater variety of birds. My kids check the feeders once every few days and love helping me to top them up when they’re running low.
In the winter months, I add plenty of suet blocks or pellets, which provide a vital source of energy for the birds. You could also make your own with a block of lard and some seeds! This bird feeding guide by RSPB has loads more information to help you get started.
2. Give the birds somewhere to nest
Providing somewhere safe and secure for birds to nest is a surefire way to make your garden their new home.
Most birds will enter nestboxes during the autumn or winter and use the same box until the following spring. My kids love the fact they see the same birds return to their nests in our garden, day after day, and have even given some of them names!
The WoodLand Trust recommends that “Adding a few nesting boxes in sheltered areas of your garden, away from potential predators, is the best way. Don’t put your nesting box in direct sunlight or where it will be prone to strong winds – somewhere between north- and east-facing is best.”
3. Get planting
If you’ve got a larger space to work with, planting as many different kinds of plants as possible is a great way to attract birds into your garden.
The more greenery you have, the better. It gives the birds cover, provides a nesting site and attracts insects they can use for food, too. If you can, plant some shrubs or trees that produce berries or seeds, such as holly or honeysuckle. The berries typically come out during early autumn, which is when birds build up their food reserves for the harsh winter months ahead.
Here are some more resources to inspire you:
- Top 10 plants for birds
- How to attract birds to your garden (video)
- The best trees, shrubs and vines for birds
Bird watching with kids: My 5 tips for getting started
The best thing about bird watching is that it doesn’t actually require any training or special skills – all you need to do is get out there and sit, watch and listen! But to help you make the most of bird watching with the kids, here are my 5 top tips:
1. Choose your tools & equipment
Honestly, the only tools you really need to birdwatch are your eyes and ears. But, in my experience, the kids really enjoy having their own special bird watchers kit – plus, it makes a great birthday or Christmas present.
Binoculars are by no means essential but are a great way for your kids to get a closer look at birds and can really ignite their curiosity. You don’t need to spend a huge amount on binoculars to get a decent beginner’s pair – a compact children’s pair shouldn’t set you back more than £30.
Bird identification book
Learning to identify birds takes time and lots of practice, but a field guide that includes all birds local to your area is a great place to start.
We started out with the National Trust’s Out And About Bird Spotter Book. It’s packed with beautiful illustrations and a comprehensive field guide section to help your kids identify a species when they’re out and about. The RSPB’s First Book of Birds is a great one, too.
There are loads of books out there, but my main tip would be to make sure you choose one that’s targeted towards your country. For example, the types of birds you’ll see in the UK vs. the US are vastly different.
Notebook & pencils
My kids love using a notebook or logbook to track all of the birds they see. They often create quick sketches, as well as detailing the species, size, colours and markings of each bird they spot. It’s a great way to spark their creativity!
Any old notebook will do, but I’ve found lots of personalised bird watching notebooks on Etsy, which is something they’ll really be proud of.
2. Get the kids excited with bird watching games & activities
Over the years, I’ve discovered many bird watching games, activities and challenges. Not only have they helped my children increase their knowledge of birds, but they make bird watching way more fun, too. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Bird bingo: We often make our own bingo sheet with 5 to 6 common garden birds on. These can either be printed out or drawn. The kids tick them off over a week or two and, when they’re done, we all have a slice of cake or a hot chocolate to celebrate.
- Bird card games: If the weather’s not so great and there aren’t many birds out and about, we love playing a game of bird ‘snap’. It helps the kids to learn all the different bird types in a fun and engaging way. Even better, you can download a free set here.
- Bird quizzes: Bird quizzes are loads of fun and another fun to enhance your children’s learning. We ask simple questions like “which bird has red and white markings?” and have a star chart on the wall where our kids track their scores.
- Make a bird feeder: While it’s easy enough to buy an affordable bird feeder, making your own is a lovely family activity. Try one of these 17 easy bird feeders kids can make and watch how happy they are when they see the birds munching away on it!
- Photography challenges: I recently bought my children a disposable film camera each and challenged them to take photos of all the birds they see. We printed them out and made a scrapbook where they labelled each photo and wrote down everything they knew about each bird.
3. Engage the kids with questions
The best way to spark the kids’ interest is to ask as many questions as possible. This gets them thinking and gives them loads of inspiration about what to write down in their logbooks.
The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust recommend the following questions:
- Where did you see the birds?
- How big was the bird?
- Was it big or small compared to other birds around it?
- What colour sand patterns did you see?
- What was it doing (perching, singing, feeding?)
- What was it eating?
- Was it alone, in a pair, or in a flock?
- What did its song sound like?
4. Try different locations
Once you’ve learnt the bird watching basics and enjoyed a few sessions in your garden, why not visit some local nature reserves or bird sanctuaries? They’re often free, or very affordable, and make a wonderful family day out. If the weather’s on your side, make the most of it and take a picnic!
Take a look at these resources to find a spot near you:
- RSPB A-Z of UK Nature Reserves
- RSPB Top 10 Nature Reserves for Families
- The National Trust Nature Reserves
- 10 UK Bird Watching Spots
5. Be aware of the bird watchers code
According to the RSPB, the bird watchers code ‘puts the interests of birds first and respects other people, whether or not they are interested in birds’ and ‘applies not just when you are at a nature reserve, but whenever you are watching birds in the UK or abroad.’
Here are 5 key things to remember:
- Avoid disturbing birds and their habitats – the birds’ interests should always come first.
- Be an ambassador for birdwatching.
- Know the law and the rules for visiting the countryside, and follow them.
- Send your sightings to the County Bird Recorder and the Birdtrack website.
- Think about the interests of wildlife and local people before passing on news of a rare bird, especially during the breeding season.
You can find out more about the bird watchers code on the RSPB website.
I’m Chloe, the founder of this site. I was literally born with green fingers and have been into all things gardening since I was a little girl. Gardening is my passion as you can see from the TON of content I’ve published on my site. Thanks for checking out this post but please also take a look around the site to see what else might pique your interest. P.S I am *always* looking for helpful feedback, so if you have something you would like to suggest or just wanna say hi – drop me a message – email@example.com, don’t be shy!