As the weather turns cooler and leaves start to change, another sure sign of fall is also in the air—migratory birds.
Migration is an exciting time for any birder, with new species coming through every week. For kids (especially those who are fascinated by the idea of what it would be like to take off flying to another country), migration can be a perfect time to learn about the natural world.
Here are a few fun activities to teach kids about bird migration.
1. Decorate Your Windows
Unfortunately, window collisions are one of the top killers of migratory birds. Large windows which reflect vegetation can be especially dangerous for birds. Preventing window collisions, however, is fairly simple activity kids can get involved with (and can help spare the heartbreak of finding a dead bird on your front lawn).
Take your kids outside and observe your windows from a bird’s point of view. Can they see trees and leaves reflected back? Does it look like it might be confusing for a bird in flight? These are the windows you need to address.
See also: How to Prevent Window Strikes
Keeping your blinds closed is the easiest way to make sure your windows appear opaque, but is not always practical. If you want something more festive that allows you to see outside, gel clings and window decals are inexpensive and come in fun, seasonal patterns that kids enjoy decorating with.
Kids can also make their own window decorations. Have them stick pieces of tissue paper to contact paper, and then press the contact paper directly onto the window for a fun suncatcher. After decorating the windows, have them head back outside. Is it easier for birds to see the solid surface now?
Grab a notebook, or tape a piece of paper to your fridge, and start your own backyard bird list. Keep a reference guide handy, or download a phone app such as Audubon or Merlin ID, and see how many backyard birds you and your children can identify over the next few months.
While at first it may seem like you see nothing but sparrows and robins, eventually your list will start to grow. Point out to your kids how birds that are there one week aren’t there the next, and are off to find warmer places to spend their winter.
If you have a bird feeder, keeping it filled will help your list grow faster. Bird get their signal to migrate through changes in light and temperature, not food availability, so feeding birds won’t impact their migration patterns.
The honking of Canada geese is one of the most iconic sounds of fall, and should be a part of every kid’s childhood. Grab a picnic lunch and head to some nearby water to catch a view of geese and other waterfowl flying by.
If you have a gaggle of kids, play “follow the goose.” Appoint one kid to be the lead goose (promise everyone they will get to take turns), and have them start running. Have the other kids follow behind in a V formation. This might take a few tries (not even geese get it right one hundred percent of the time), but keep trying. Explain to kids how the V makes for easier flying, and overall less work for the birds on their journey south.
4. Cozy Up with a Kid’s Bird Migration Book
After a long day of exploring the outdoors, cozy up on the couch with a blanket and a stack of books about bird migration to help answer any questions your curious kids are sure to have. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Is this Panama? A Migration Story by Jan Thornhill – This sweet and beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a young Wilson’s warbler on his first migration to Panama.
The Peregrine’s Journey: A Story of Migration by Madeline Dunphy – This story follows the journey of peregrine falcons as they migration 8,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina.
Amazing Animal Journeys by Laura Marsh – This National Geographic reader will answer plenty of questions, and help ignite even more curiosity in little ones interested in all types of animal migration.
Fall is the perfect time to celebrate and help protect migratory birds. Hopefully these activities will help your kids enjoy this special time of year.