Birds are everywhere! They live all over the world – on every continent and in all kinds of ecosystems. They are big, small, black, white, meat-eaters, and vegetarians. One of the best things about birds is that we can see them right outside our own homes, no matter where we live. This means birds are the perfect choice for observing an animal in its native habitat, so let’s get started.
There are three questions to ask when you first start looking at birds: What does it look like? What does it sound like? How does it act?
For the first question, start with its beak shape as this might tell you what it eats (sharp and curved for tearing meat or short and pointy for catching insects or long and narrow for sipping nectar from flowers, etc.). Next, ask yourself questions like: Does it have a long or short tail? Are its legs long compared with its body? Is it the same color all over or does it have patches on its wings or head? Is it bigger than a basketball?
Next, get your good listening ears out. Birds use all kinds of noises to communicate with each other just like we do. Males will sing to guard their territory or to attract a mate. Lots of birds will “yell” loudly to warn their neighbors about danger. And, baby birds will beg noisily for food from their parents.
Finally, ask yourself what the bird is doing. When it moves, does it hop or walk? Is it chasing the other birds away? Maybe it’s clinging to the side of a tree and pecking holes!
Now it’s time to use your imagination! No matter how much we know about birds, we can only imagine what’s going on inside their heads. Write a story using your observations about the birds in your backyard. Maybe you think there’s a family trying to avoid the neighborhood cat. Maybe there’s a bird that has travelled from a long way away and is looking for a new home. Maybe you have a hummingbird that guards the red flowers around your house with its life! The possibilities are endless, especially as you can easily find between ten and twenty different types of birds in an Arizona neighborhood. Let’s get observing!
You can meet the author of a true story about a Common Raven at the Desert Botanical Garden’s Desert Book Club Family Class on September 27th!
Some good resources to help with your observations:
Emily Morris is a Science Education Coordinator for the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. She loves birds.