Monday, March 19, 2007

Families And Birdwatching - Perfect Together

Worried about how much time your child spends in front of the computer and TV? Wondering how you can entice them to get outside once in a while? Consider a family birdwatching outing - a great way to get outdoors, learn about nature, share a fun day, and maybe even develop a new shared passion!

Few realize this, but birdwatching is America's number one sport, with over 51.3 MILLION participants, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Many birders are passionate fans, people who get estatic over seeing an unusual specimen, but the majority of birders are regular folks who just love birds and being outside.

If you've never been out birdwatching before, you're in for a treat. Find yourself a wooded park, equip everyone with inexpensive binoculars (sharing is no fun - by the time you switch who has them, the target has often flow away), and get a basic field guide to the birds of your region. Take a notepad along, and start what is known as a "lifelist". This is simply a list of birds you have seen and identified, usually along with the date and location of the sighting. Kids love this - everytime they see a new bird they get to add it to the list, making each new sighting a thrill.

There are a few basic guidelines to follow when birding:
1 - don't take the dog - the noise will scare away most of your chance of seeing anything interesting
2 - do talk quietly, for the same reason
3 - do take binoculars, an essential piece of equipment
4 - do take a field guide so you can identify the birds you spot
5 - do encourage everyone to start and maintain a lifelist - kids will like putting this onto a computer, where they can easily sort to see if a bird is new on their list
6 - if you have a backyard, do put out feeders and birdhouses - you can see some great birds without even leaving the house!
7 - do use your ears - when you listen, you'll be able to spot birds you wouldn't have otherwise noticed
8 - do encourage your kids to learn more about birds online - there are wonderful sites to help identify birds or just play bird games
9 - do read books on bird behaviors together - birds are fascinating creatures, and the more you discover about them the more fun birdwatching becomes
10 - do go out in the winter and early spring - you may have to bundle up, but without leaves on the trees you can see the birds much more easily

Birdwatching is an active, educational, sport that gets more enjoyable as you learn about it. Kids and adults alike get a real thrill out of adding a new sighting to their lifelists. So grab your binoculars, field guide and notebook, take your family, and go spot some birds!

About the Author
Carol Miller is an internet author, entrepreneur and avid birder. You can find great stuff for kids, including young reader field guides bird books, puzzles, facts and games at her website,