Audubon for Kids

Celebrate Birds of Prey with Poetry

In this activity, kids write poems about owls, eagles, hawks, or other raptors to share with family and friends.

This activity invites children to use their creative imaginations to celebrate raptors—a.k.a., birds of prey—with poetry. All you need are pencils, paper, and your words.

Raptors are a fascinating group of birds for many reasons. They are symbols of strength, power, wisdom, and even ferocity. They are also beautiful and graceful. These characteristics and qualities have inspired writers of all kinds, including poets.

1. Look through the Audubon Adventures magazine, Raptors! The Birds of Prey, paying attention to the photographs and illustrations of different kinds of raptors. Also focus on the characteristics that all raptors share and that make them such powerful and effective hunters: extra-keen eyesight and hearing, strong grasping feet with sharp talons, and a curved slicing beak. Owls even have a special arrangement of feathers on the edges of their wings that let them fly silently.

2. Introduce the plan to write poems about raptors. If you or your children have favorite poems, this is a great time to share them. Point out that some poems rhyme and some do not. Some are long and some are short. Some are serious and some are funny. Anyone can be a poet! The only requirement is that the writing expresses the writer’s feelings about something with the hope of inspiring the feelings of the reader.

3. For starters, you might suggest kids write a variation of a five-line poetic form called a cinquain. It gives kids an easy framework they can use as a model for creating their poems. Here’s how it works:

Line 1: Two-word theme or description
Line 2: Three actions, feelings, or descriptions
Line 3: Four actions, feelings, or descriptions
Line 4: Five actions, feelings, or descriptions
Line 5: Two-word title or summary

Here’s an example using the above formula:

Flashing wings
Rising, soaring, catching the wind
High-pitched call, gleaming eyes, movement below, turning now
Diving, speeding, almost there. Mouse is running. Go, mouse, go!
Hello, hawk.

Make sure there’s no pressure of any kind, and no judgment. Writing poetry is only worthwhile if the writer is motivated, inspired, and feeling confident. Suggest kids illustrate their poems, too. Join in by writing and illustrating your own poem!

4. Share the poems with family members and friends by having in-person readings or by telephone, email, or social media. (Share with Audubon by emailing audubonmagazine@audubon.org.) Consider making one day a week 'Poetry Day,' and every week write on a different theme. For example, you could choose the weekly themes featured in Audubon For Kids, or any theme that feels right and that everyone will enjoy writing about.

Optional:

Here are two very different poems, one about an owl and one about an eagle. Depending on the children’s ages, you can read and talk about them together for inspiration before writing their own poems. The first is a humorous one about an owl, with a gentle message about noticing the world around us, talking less, and listening more. “The Eagle” will only be understood by older children—at least 8 years old and more likely 10 and up—but you still may need to offer help with some of the imagery and vocabulary: “crooked hands” as the eagle’s feet; “azure” as another word for “blue”; “the wrinkled sea” that “crawls” is a body of moving water; and when the eagle “falls,” it’s really diving after prey. (Eagles are very skilled at spotting and catching fish just below the water’s surface.)

The Eagle
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

A Wise Old Owl
by Anonymous

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

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Audubon Adventures is an environmental science curriculum, developed by professional educators, that presents standards-based science content about birds and their habitats. It includes four-page magazines (in PDF format) just for kids with lively content, illustrations, and photographs on a variety of topics. Explore more activities, games, and lessons about birds and nature at the Audubon Adventures website.

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