Scottsdale, AZ – It’s almost spring … earlier sunrises, later sunsets, and a slight warmth wafting through the air are all signs of a change. Another unmistakable mark of spring is the boisterous sound that fill the mornings. Birds, seen or unseen, become very chatty and seem to be trying out new songs, composed especially for the upcoming mating season.
Bird watching has long been associated with groups of senior citizens tip-toeing through marshes and woodlands, but the practice can be a natural skill builder for both adults and children, especially when they are exposed to it early. Consider just some of the benefits of bird tracking.
Birds can be found everywhere, from open farmland to crowded inner cities. Their ability to thrive in such diverse settings is in itself an incredible design feat. From a messy nest high in a sprawling tree to a lone metal perch outside an urban high rise window, birds are present near all our homes. The natural world can sometimes seem stagnant and slow to change, but birds offer us a constantly shifting view of life in the animal world.
There are so many different kinds of birds. The American Museum of Natural History estimate there to be as many as 18,000 species of birds worldwide. Learning to identify size, shape, plumage designs, calls, movement, behavior, nest building habits and migration patterns offer endless ways to hone precise observation skills. Wild birds must be quickly analyzed from a distance before they vanish from sight and earshot. Children can be taught to pay attention to main features, as well as subtle details as they sharpen their observation skills.
Bird tracking builds vocabulary. Think of all the comparative adjectives even young children can learn in the process of describing their feathered friends. Is it large or small, slender or compact, spotted, striped, plain or mottled? What are their beaks and tails like? Is their flight smooth or choppy?
Tracking birds teaches us about design. Books and online resources can help us understand the unique design of birds; light-weight bones, feather and beak design according to function, hunting and defensive behaviors. There is no end to the weird and wonderful design features found in the world of birds.
People learn from birds. Why did it take people so long to figure out how to copy flight? What design features did people duplicate in order to create flying machines? We are still learning about the navigational skills of birds. How can some fly for hours without stopping to “refuel” over thousands of miles and land in the same location year after year? Such mysteries fascinate us and inspire us to learn from them.
Birds are generally harmless to humans. We can enjoy these feathered wonders without fear of being attacked, gored, bit or sprayed. Some birds will warn us to back off with loud calls or gutsy swoops, but for the vast majority, birds would rather take to the air than interact with humans. Do practice caution when handling anything that belongs to a wild bird due to the parasites, bacteria and viruses that can be carried.
Can you think of more benefits to bird tracking? This week try to be aware of the birds around you. Turn off artificial sound makers and tune into the sounds of birds. Scan your surroundings for bird activity. This time of year, you will catch birds collecting nesting material or acting strangely as they carry out their mating rituals. Some will delight you with what looks like joy… the joy of riding the breeze as only a bird can.
Cultivate Wonder… Discover Design
References and Resources
American Museum of Natural History – Estimate of Bird Species