In many ways every child is born a scientist—exploring their world, leading small experiments, asking questions, searching for answers. That innate curiosity and drive to inquiry is what Rachel Carson, the groundbreaking conservationist and author, called a sense of wonder. “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement,” she wrote. © “It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.”
ɋThis page aims to bring together activities from across Audubon’s national network of environmental educators, including the classroom curriculum Audubon Adventures, plus related DIY activities and content from Audubon’s editors. These activities can be done at home or in a yard or park, sometimes with the help of a computer. The goal isn’t to teach a child how to name and identify bird species, but rather to give them space to explore and feel connected to the natural world. If you’re a parent or caretaker, that means you don’t need to worry about your own knowledge of birds or plants. All you need to be is a companion to your child’s curiosity.
“If a child is to keep their inborn sense of wonder, they need the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in,” Rachel Carson wrote in 1956. M We hope these lessons, which we’ll refresh each week with a new theme, will help you you find awe and inspiration in nature together.
Do you love animals, including wildlife? Then you just might want to get to know the wildlife you probably see every day: birds. There are many special things about birds. For one, they have feathers. No other animal has them. Birds come in an amazing variety of colors and sizes. That’s another special thing about birds—diversity.
How do you describe a bird? You may describe its colors and color pattern, the size and shape of the beak, or what its legs and feet look like. These are called field marks. Field marks are clues that people use to help them identify a bird. When you become comfortable recognizing field mark clues, you can begin to identify specific kinds of birds. So, grab a field guide or open an app, or go outside if you can. When you spot a bird, take a closer look.
You don’t need to go outside to get to know birds: Try drawing them instead. David Sibley, the ornithologist who wrote and illustrated The Sibley Guide to Birds, created a video for Audubon for Kids that shows how to sketch a Black-capped Chickadee—a teeny, acrobatic songbird. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil or crayon and try it yourself! Share your art on Instagram: #SketchWithSibley @audubonsociety.
a characteristic that helps identify a bird, such as color, color pattern, size, tail shape, leg length, size and shape of beak, kind of feet, and so on
wild animals living in nature
a group of plants or animals that share certain characteristics and are able to breed and reproduce their own kind
the condition of having many different kinds of things, such as people, plants, and animals
the hard, horny part of a bird’s mouth; also called bill
for birds, to settle down to rest or sleep; a place where birds settle down to rest or sleep
When it comes to birds, owls are big attention-getters, with their huge eyes, razor-sharp beak, and powerful feet with piercing talons. Their haunting calls echoing through the dark give us chills. Owls are also symbols of wisdom, making them popular characters in ancient myths and modern stories.
Owls are categorized as raptors, or birds of prey. They are predators, and the animals they catch and feed on are prey. In other words, they’re hunters. Their diets range from insects and worms to small mammals, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, and even other birds. Like other raptors—eagles, hawks, falcons, kites—owls grab their prey with their feet. Their hunting skills are enhanced by their keen eyesight, excellent hearing, and special feathers on the edges of their wings for flying silently after unsuspecting prey.
The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove is home to fascinating resident owls. These birds are badly injured and unable to survive in the wild, so now they are part of Audubon Pennsylvania's education program. Get to know the owls with Audubon staffers Carrie Barron and Christine Lin in this video series, starting with this episode on owl anatomy. Watch Episode 1 to see an Eastern Screech Owl eat a mouse. Our hosts dissect an owl pellet in Episode 2.
Quiz yourself to learn your North American owl species by sight!
Click on an owl’s photo to see the species name on the back.
Great Gray Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
You don’t need to go outside to get to know birds: Try drawing them instead. David Sibley, the ornithologist who wrote and illustrated The Sibley Guide to Birds, created a video for Audubon for Kids that shows how to sketch an Eastern Screech-Owl. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil or crayon and try it yourself! Share your art on Instagram: #SketchWithSibley @audubonsociety.
Every year in spring and fall, millions of birds migrate, taking to the air to travel between their summer and winter homes. It’s a relatively short trip for some. Others travel thousands of miles, sometimes flying for days without landing. Different birds use different skills to get where they need to go. Some learn from their parents. Others use landmarks, sound, the sun and stars, or Earth’s magnetic field to find their way.
No matter where you live, birds migrate through or to your neighborhood. They may stay for a short time, stopping to rest and refuel on their way to someplace else. Or your neighborhood may be the destination for certain species, where they will nest and raise their young in spring and summer, or pass the cold months of fall and winter in a warmer climate.
to relocate from one habitat to another in a regular cycle
the route birds follow as they migrate
a place in which an organism is normally able to find the resources it needs for survival
a place where migratory animals spend time during their migration
to find the way from one place to another
the natural behavior of an animal in response to environmental factors or other influences
You don’t need to go outside to get to know birds: Try drawing them instead. David Sibley, the ornithologist who wrote and illustrated The Sibley Guide to Birds, created a video for Audubon for Kids that shows how to sketch an Arctic Tern. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil or crayon and try it yourself! Share your art on Instagram: #SketchWithSibley @audubonsociety.
A healthy habitat with native trees and plants—the ones that have evolved in that place along with the other living things there—is key to making birds feel at home. Plants provide protection from weather and predators, and offer places to roost at night. Seeds, nuts, fruit, and flower nectar are food sources all year long. And when it comes time to lay eggs, birds use trees and plants to build nests—and hide them, too.
But there’s more! Trees host the protein-rich insects that baby birds need to grow. Science has shown that native trees and plants support far more insects than non-native species. Bottom line, a healthy habitat dominated by native trees and other plants means birds and other wildlife can thrive, and the same is true for another organism: human beings.
Dark-eyed Junco: Searches the ground for insects in summer and seeds in winter.
Northern Cardinal: Eats most kinds of seeds, insects, berries, and wild fruit—and even flowers!
Blue Jay: Eats many nuts, seeds, fruit, and insects. Stores acorns in holes in the ground.