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Montreal Families

Gazing at winged creatures

From the early-morning chirping of tiny sparrows to the plaintive cry of circling seagulls, we encounter birds every day. For children, these encounters can be particularly special as they are just beginning to discover these winged creatures. Beyond simply learning about birds, bird watching is a great way to show children how to carefully observe the world around them. For example, the distinct notes of a bird’s song or the colour of the tips of its wings all help with identifying it. By becoming more attuned to these small details, children will develop a keen curiosity and a profound admiration for the beauty of their natural environment. Here are a few books that can help your children to get started on their bird watching adventures. And maybe these books will also make a young person more aware of and engaged in trying to protect the natural environment of these majestic creatures.

Usborne Discovery BirdsUsborne Discovery: Birds (Usborne Books, $10.95)
by Gillian Doherty – Ages 6-9

Before children launch into their bird watching adventures, they may want to learn more about birds in general and what makes these flying animals so special. The book introduces various types of birds and the habits that make them unique, such as nest building and laying eggs. The book is easy to understand and well-illustrated, giving children a clear visual of what is being explained. It provides an excellent starting point for any budding birdwatcher so that he/she can gain a fundamental understanding of birds.

Backyard BirdsBackyard Birds: An Introduction (Scholastic Books, $9.99)
by Robert Bateman – Ages 6-10

Canadian artist and naturalist Robert Bateman has made a career of capturing the beauty of wildlife on canvas. In this book, he shares his love of birds, especially ones we’re likely to see in our own backyards such as doves, sparrows, cardinals and blue jays. For each, he provides interesting facts such as the weight of the bird, its wingspan and a description of its song. He also includes some information about the distinct qualities of birds such as their migration patterns and their cycle of life. The book is full of beautiful and inviting illustrations done by Bateman that will make it easy and exciting for children to spot the same birds from the book in their own backyard.

The Bird Watching Answer Book (photo above – Storey Publishing, $18.95)
by Laura Erickson – Ages 7-10

Any young budding bird-watcher will begin to have loads of questions about the birds they are observing, questions that may not be so easy to answer. If you are a parent being bombarded by bird questions of the strangest kind, then this book is a wise investment. It comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (the study of birds), a non-profit organization that is affiliated with Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In the book, author Laura Erickson provides answers to hundreds of the most frequently asked questions about birds. She addresses the whole spectrum of bird behaviour and life, answering even those really tough questions such as the number of feathers on a bird and why a bird perched on an electrical line doesn’t get electrocuted. The book has a particular emphasis on how to protect birds and their habitats, which is especially important if young birdwatchers want to continue to pursue their newfound interest for years to come.

Audubon First Field Guide BirdsAudubon First Field Guide: Birds (Scholastic Books, $9.99) – Ages 7-10

The Audubon Society has existed for more than 100 years, striving to preserve the natural habitats of birds. It is named after famed ornithologist John James Audubon, who took it upon himslf to draw and catalogue the birds of America, a work he published in sections between 1827 and 1838. This small tome is a fitting legacy to Mr. Audubon. Although it replaces drawings with photographs of the birds, the book offers large and clear images, rich in details, of North American species of birds. The biggest strength of this book lies in its detailed description of individual bird types, which has enabled the Audubon society to raise awareness and interest about these feathered friends for more than a century.

Bird watching resources

Birdwatchers have seen 192 different species of birds at the Botanical Gardens, which encourages visitors to try out birding by offering information and tips on the website www.museumsnature.ca

To find a bird watching club near you, visit the website of the Regroupement Quebec Oiseaux, www.quebecoiseaux.org, where you’ll find contacts for the many clubs in the province as well as information about bird watching.

The Bird Protection Society of Quebec organizes bird watching field trips throughout the year. Its website, www.pqspb.org, includes information about these trips as well as on bird watching in general.

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