There is something so joyful about spying on birds with your kids. Whether we’re watching a brilliant, yellow Goldfinch flitting to the feeder, or a petite,Downy Woodpecker with black-and-white checkered wings and zingy red swish poppiting about on a tree trunk, or a stately, long-legged, intensely-shy Great Blue Heron wading regally about in the reeds at the lake, there is a wonder and delight in seeing and knowing-by-name the birds around us.
Finding a good field guide for those of us who are concentrating on the most familiar birds is not always easy. This is especially true when we are looking for something highly accessible to kids. My hands-down favorite is by Stan Tekiela. Since I live in Minnesota, I have his Birds of Minnesota Field Guide, though he has done guides for many, many other states as well.
I like this guide because…
…it contains only about 100 of the birds most commonly spotted in my state, so I don’t have to sort through 1000 birds that never live here
…there is a gorgeous, full-page, close-up, color photograph of every bird,so I am not trying to identify it by a tiny drawing
…the book is organized by color, which makes it much easier to turn to what I’ve spotted
…if the male and female are remarkably distinct, there is an inset picture showing what the mate looks like
…the guide tells me if another bird closely resembles the one I’ve looked up so I can compare the two
…there are short, interesting notes about each bird’s habits
…it’s a truly handy size (about 4×6) for carting around
Our copy of Birds of Minnesota is well-worn. My kids easily learned how to use this guide when they were quite young. They have used it to identify everything from hawks to tiny warblers. In addition, the photos make a great resource for learning to accurately draw birds. We have often propped the book open to a bird we’ve come to know, taken out the colored pencils, and attempted to draw what we really see.