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Look to the Sky! Migrating Birds Bring Opportunities for Learning and Adventure

When kids learn to identify birds it introduces them to everyday magic.

There are birds that don’t migrate at all, but over half of the 650 different bird species in the U.S. do. Some only travel a few miles, while others cover thousands of miles. International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in May for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and it marks a great opportunity for kids to learn by exploring this natural phenomenon.

The arduous journey tests birds’ physical and mental capabilities, and things like bad weather, inadequate food supplies and exposure to predators can prove fatal. Much like humans on road trips who stop off at hotels and diners, birds that travel long distances depend on “stopover” locations where they can rest and find food.

When urban and suburban development ignores migration patterns, it can take away crucial resources that migrating birds need to survive. Cultivating environmental awareness in kids is an important part of helping them understand the impact their actions have on others, in both a social and environmental context.

According to Michelle Ratcliffe, PhD and farm-to-family specialist, "When kids learn to identify birds it introduces them to everyday magic. They develop a powerful skill of observation and suddenly stop seeing ‘birds’ and start seeing towhees, chickadees, and starlings. It literally changes how they experience their neighborhood.” Beyond that, learning where birds live is also a great introduction to several scientific topics that can get kids thinking.

  • Habitats
    Birds abundant in one habitat can be absent from another because it doesn’t have the resources they need. Talk about the plants and animals you see, and research what the animals eat. What does the environment they live in have to offer them?

  • Seasons
    Often, seasonal changes drive migration because an area that offers abundant food in one season might be lacking in another. Explore the seasonal shifts that happen in the U.S. and around the world and investigate how they align with migration patterns.

  • Genetics, astronomy, magnetism
    Even first-year birds often make their migratory journey without guidance, successfully finding a location they’ve never been to before. They rely on a mysterious combination of genetics, the earth’s magnetic pole and the relative location of the sun, moon and stars to find their way. You can talk about early navigation techniques with your kids (pre-Google Maps), inherited traits and the chemical composition of the planet, all by starting with birds!

  • Biology
    Different species of migratory birds can belong to the same genus or family. For instance, sparrows are of the family Passeridae and there are several genera contained therein, including Passer. The house sparrow is a species that’s part of this genus. Younger kids might not be into the Latin, but older kids often delight in the sounds of these unusual words.

Go birding with your family – bring a picnic and binoculars and get a guide book from the library and see what you can find. Use this list of Oregon birding hotspots or, if you’re not opposed to a little drive, stop by these Washington Birding Hotspots for an adventure.

Honda knows the importance of family time and what it means to be a busy parent. That's why Northwest Honda Dealers proudly support Rootopia, where the art, science and fun of raising happy, healthy kids comes together. By making time to go outside with your kids and explore the wonders of the natural world, you can help them grow into curious, compassionate members of our community.

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