One, Two, Three… Black-Capped Chickadees!

A Woodpecker (not a chickadee, of course!).
A Woodpecker (not a chickadee, of course!).

As a bird-watcher, I look forward to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Right now, between February 15 and February 18, we pretend to be field biologists on a mission “to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are” by identifying and counting the birds we see in our backyards for at least 15 minutes.

This is my family’s third year participating in the GBBC, and now that my twins are five and able to identify many of visitors to our backyard feeders, they are particularly excited to count birds. To prepare them for this activity, we have been looking up birds in the National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Pennsylvania, and learning about birds in general by reading/playing with Birds of a Feather by Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau, a wonderfully interactive book for children.

This large book reveals facts about birds through a variety of flaps, some shaped like feathers and others shaped like eggs or jigsaw puzzle pieces. My children most especially love the eggs, pictured below, and they spent much of their morning peeking under the eggs, from the large, blue Emu egg to the small, speckled House Martin egg.

Birds of a Feather

Watching and reading about birds has inspired my girls to draw birds, too, such as the cardinal below. My little perfectionist daughter doesn’t like how this drawing turned out, but I have assured her that I love it and that she will have many opportunities to practice her artistic skills.

When not drawing birds from scratch, my girls are having a blast coloring in the birds in The Backyard Bird Primer or the Charismatic and Querulous Birds of Central Pennsylvania, a lovely book I discovered on another WordPress blog. The author is a field biologist (a real one) who blogs at Standing Out in My Field (The Nature of a Punny Field Biologist) (and who was kind enough to send me a PDF of her book!). I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but many of the birds are the same, and we’ve been coloring in each bird we see this weekend.

So far, we have seen quite a few of our feathered friends, including chickadees, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and a Cooper’s Hawk, whose presence has reduced the activity at our feeders dramatically — for now.


22-Month-Old Having Fun!
22-Month-Old Having Fun!


  1. I truly wish someone had taught me about stuff like this as a child. I love the outdoors but still can’t get beyond the generic ‘bird’, ‘flower’, ‘tree’ etc. How sad is that?
    The cardinal bird is great though – I’m watching out for one of those next weekend!

    1. It seems like learning to identify birds is like learning languages: it’s easier to pick up the skill while we’re children. Identifying birds is teaching my girls not only about the environment/conservation, but it’s also encouraging them to be patient and to notice small details. It’s a great activity for kids.

      I hope you’ll get to see lots of cardinals! The Northern Cardinal is my Maram’s favorite bird right now. She has recently learned about sexual dimorphism in birds, and she takes a lot of pride in being able to tell the boys apart from the girls.

  2. I went to a scientific talk last week that included data from the backyard bird count. The results really do get used! I love the way you are involving your kids with it.

    1. It’s nice to hear that the results get used! We love participating in it. It’s fun for my kids to pretend to be field biologists. The activity teaches them about the environment and conservation. Who knows, maybe it will spark a life-long passion for them!

    1. Yes, it was very nice of Laura! It’s a great coloring book.

      I’m sorry to hear that a hawk interfered with your GBBC. The same happened here, but it’s always exciting to see a Cooper’s Hawk in our yard. We’ve had some birds today, though not quite as many as we’ve had in previous years.

    1. Thanks for sending it to us! We haven’t quite gotten the hang of the bird songs (other than a few of the more obvious ones, like Mourning Doves), but my girls love the drawings.

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