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Advice for fostering kids' interest in birding?

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 My sons are immensely interested in all things nature, with the exception of birding. My older son is lukewarm about it, but my younger one not so much. I believe that the tangible parts of nature observation (handling insects, herps, flipping rocks in streams, etc.) are what got them hooked on the other aspects, and the animal tracking for them is like detective work, solving a mystery.

 I'd like to foster my older son's marginal interest in birding but also don't want to push. I'd like to hear the ideas and advice of others on how they got their kids interested, or fostered whatever budding interest may have been there? Thanks in advance for any help that you can offer.

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Good question! You're definitely thinking about it the right way: definitely don't want to push any certain hobby, but also encourage them to consider learning more about that hobby. There are three things I can think of off the top of my head. 

First, you can find a place near you that has a good supply of easily visible and charismatic birds, but also other animals/plants that will entertain them if they start losing interest. A lake/bay/wetland with lots of waterfowl hanging around is what comes to mind for me, but it really depends on where you live. I can give you some more specific ideas if I know the general region where you live. When going on walks here, make sure to point out the birds and some of their interesting behaviors/trivia.

Second, if you haven't already, you can set up birdfeeder(s). Obviously, these can offer a uniquely intimate viewing experience of many species, that will easily entice many into learning more about birds.

Thirdly, make sure you have a good field guide available to them, and encourage them to browse through the pages. Seeing and reading about very interesting species across the continent can obviously motivate younger ones to just "get out of the house and see them", which obviously leads straight to a deep interest in birding.

(by the way, I first got into birding through a combination of these three ways)

Ultimately, it is totally up to them whether they want to take up birding as a hobby or not (it certainly isn't for many), but it's undoubtable that given their interest in nature, they'll become more and more interested in birds in the future.

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 Thank you Thunderbird! Those are some great suggestions. Regarding general area where I live, I am in New Jersey. 

Another thought that I had was to start them watching birds in late autumn when the leaves are down and the flocks are forming. I thought that it might be cool (and inspiring) for them to get a chance to see a few different types of birds at once in the open and be able to identify different individuals of the same species. Your thoughts?

Also, one thing that I personally have never done is gone on a hawkwatch. We do have one not far from here along a flyway and according to the records, it is a very good place to see a variety of raptors in one day. What are your thoughts, do you think that they would enjoy this or might this be overwhelming/boring because of the challenge of identifying many of the raptors in flight? Keep in mind that it would also involve a hike and of course there would be different birds to see.

 Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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I would take them places where there are plenty of activities, not just birding, and encourage them to try everything, including the birding. If they like hiking, the hawkwatch sounds like a good idea; and if they are typical boys hawks might be a little more enticing than some other kinds of birds. I'd try to keep it to letting them see you enjoy birding and not pushing it on them; but they might take to it! 

I have a student who has become quite the birder, and has needed little encouragement from me to pursue his interest; but he's also developing a love for science in general. We have a little mini worm composter in a jar that he loves, and I've had to supply materials for him to observe insects in the classroom without too much danger of escapees :D We've had a few talks on earthquakes in school and I now know that I have to look up what kind of tectonic plate movement caused any quakes we have, because he's sure to ask me. So even if they become geologists, botanists, or biologists instead of ornithologists you'll still have plenty to be proud of!

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My wife came up with the idea of making a little field guide with about 10 super common species in it, that the kids could locate easily. For younger kids she came up with a coloring book. Same thing, super common local species. The game is to find every species in the book.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/4cVJLjOo3YFLRvl52

https://photos.app.goo.gl/y5DMskgq383HXE9K2

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My kids also love to feed ducks at the local lake. We stop at the feed store and get a bag of chicken scratch. I always point out the Wood Ducks, Common Gallinules, Tri-colored Blackbirds, and whatever else different comes in to feed. 

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If they are interested in the tactile side of nature, maybe look to see if there is a bird banding station nearby, especially with migration coming soon. The ones I have been to seem to love having kids come by to see, handle, release and learn about the birds.

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