Updated: Jun 13, 2022
How to safely observe and support the growing bird families in your nature neighborhood.
If you've been following along on my Instagram, you know that the Eastern phoebe babies on my front porch hatched!! We are so excited for this family and eager to watch them grow up. If you have nesting birds in your nature neighborhood, you know just how exciting it is to catch your first glimpse of those wrinkly little aliens lumped together in their nest. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had as they begin to grow feathers, peep aggressively each time their parent returns to the nest with food, and eventually fledge and then take off completely.
It is a whirlwind that happens far too quickly (perhaps I'm channeling some of my own feelings about babies growing up too fast here...), but there are ways we can be part of this process without interfering.
Stewardship Tip #1 - Be respectful, but let those kids see!
Have you heard the old wives tale that if you touch a baby bird its mother will reject it? Yea, me too. But, you can rest easy knowing that this is a myth! The majority of bird species have a very reduced sense of smell (can you guess who needs a strong sense of smell? I'll give you a hint: they eat carrion and rhyme with mulcher). So, if you ever need to return a baby bird to its nest, you are safe to do so.
Nesting birds and growing babies absolutely need privacy and respect to prevent them from getting overstressed, but seeing baby birds up close is such a wonderful experience for children! Feel free to let your kids periodically peep at those babies and begin building a strong sense of stewardship!
Stewardship Tip #2 - Get everyone involved in baby care!
Well, OK, not direct baby bird care. Please leave that to the bird parents, they know best. But, you can get the whole family involved in setting up an ideal nature neighborhood for these feathered families. Set up bird houses on trees in a variety of different habitat areas, rake leaves and sticks into piles but leave them in the yard for nesting material selection, fill up bird feeders as needed (research your resident birds and their favorite food!), and set up bird baths and other water features.
You can take all of this one step further by keeping any household cats indoors and encouraging your neighbors to do the same, especially during peak bird activity seasons (nesting and migration).
Stewardship Tip #3 - Get out that Nature Notebook!
This may not seem like a stewardship tip, but trust me...it is. If your children don't already have a nature notebook, check out my video on how to make a simple version. Then, get out your colored pencils and start sketching! You can offer your children prompts, but I encourage you to sit down alongside your child with your own notebook and just start sketching and noting what interests you. Your child will follow along with what feels interesting to them, and that is what is important.
How does this relate to stewardship, you ask? The more you support your child in observing the world around them, especially what is right in their own backyard, the more likely they are to feel a sense of responsibility for its well being.
Stewardship Tip #4 - Get to know your feathered neighbors
Lastly, knowing your feathered neighbors can help you build connection and make sure you steward your nature neighborhood to best support its residents. My absolute favorite website for all things bird knowledge is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. But, I also have some favorite child friendly bird field guide here.
Who doesn't love a baby bird?
There are few things cuter than baby wild animals (the present company napping on my lap excluded), and baby birds are no exception. Beyond just being cute, observing baby birds and bird nesting is a great way to support your budding naturalist in understanding life cycles, ecosystems, bird behavior and characteristics, and habitat - and you don't have to prepare a thing, it is right there out your front door.