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Baby Birding

BabybluejayBy Michelle Riggen-Ransom

With the fall season almost upon us, we’re brushing the sand out of our cars and turning our gaze skyward, where migrating birds are beginning their journeys for parts south. Rhode Island is on the migration path for many of the states 300-plus birds: twice a year we are treated to a dazzling, hectic flurry of bird activity.

Rhode Islanders are doubly lucky in that we live on a major bird thoroughfare, and we have an awesome resource for birders and birding in the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. The Audubon Society has an amazing array of avian activities of interest to parents and children, from their bird walks, their hugely popular Raptor Weekend (coming up September 8-9 — register in advance by calling 401-949-5454) and their many other bird-related programs, stories, and craft activities. I personally can’t wait for Owl Prowl, where kids ages 10 and older can join their parents for an evening of learning about and listening for owls. What a great excuse to be outside on an autumn night peeking at things with a flashlight!

Also coming up on September 1 at the Audubon Environmental Education Center is a chance to meet and greet the award-winning author of The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies. This is a fascinating book and is illustrated by one of my favorite children’s book artists, Melissa Sweet.

If you and your little ones are curious about the birds you see and hear around your neighborhood, pick up a laminated bird map of Eastern backyard birds and see if you can identify them. Beginning birders can look for clues like wing patterns, beak shape, and color or even their quirky, birdy behavior. My four year old loves looking up the birds he sees: he feels quite proud now that he can easily identify cardinals, blue jays, hummingbirds, and finches. An older child might enjoy a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds, a comprehensive book with gorgeous illustrations and migratory maps as well as bird names and behaviors.

Birds are among the most engaging and accessible creatures for children to learn about. They exist happily with us and brighten our days with their distinct personalities, beauty and song. Not unlike our children themselves.

Related reads:
Mole and the Baby Bird by Marjorie Newman (Baby-preschool)
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sills (Ages 2-5)
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies (Grades 2-6)
Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America by Roger Tory Peterson (All ages)

Nature/Nurture, written by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, is a twice-monthly column with ideas and information to help kids and their families engage with the natural world in fun, interesting ways. Share your thoughts and explorations by adding your comment below, or contact us with your story ideas.

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