Birding and community science

Goldfinch
Washington's official state bird, the American goldfinch.

More than 500 bird species call Washington home. As crucial components of healthy ecosystems, birds serve as pollinators, predators, scavengers, seed dispersers, and engineers in a variety of habitats. Learn more about Washington bird species from our partners at the National Audubon Society.  

Materials 

 

 

Lesson 1: Birds & glass collisions

Hundreds of millions of birds die each year in the United States from flying into glass and windows. Birds often hit windows because they see reflections of clouds, sky, or plants in the glass. Sometimes, birds can see indoor plants and fly into the window by accident. At nighttime, birds can be attracted to lights on buildings and accidentally fly into a glass window. 

Watch this 7-minute video from American Bird Conservancy to learn more about bird collisions and what cities are doing to help. 

Activity: Make your own bird-friendly window decals

Walk around your home and identify which windows are most dangerous for flying birds. Think about the windows that are closest to where you see birds during the day. 

Gather your materials
  • Puffy fabric paint
  • Recycled plastic or large plastic storage bag
  • Decal printouts (Print this PDF)

Lesson 2: Backyard birding

Bird watching can be done from your backyard or window, and offers the opportunity to practice patience as well as observation and listening skills. Kids are natural explorers, so birding is a perfect activity to do year round.

Watch the video below to learn the basics of birding in the Pacific Northwest from Matt Curtis, a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Activity: Practice birding by ear

Sound is often the best way to know if a bird is nearby, and can also help you identify a bird species without ever seeing it. Be more mindful when you go outside and listen for birds. Do you hear repetitive songs or calls? Do you notice more than one type of bird? 

Learning to identify a bird by its sound can seem challenging, especially when there are several birds singing at once. To speed up your learning process, really think about what you're hearing. Describe the sound to yourself or write it down. Familiarize yourself with some common backyard bird songs below. Pick a few species that you have seen in your neighborhood and listen to them repeatedly. Now when you go outside, try to identify a bird by its sound before you see it. 

Want even more sounds? Download the National Audubon Society's Bird Guide App or visit their online bird guide to hear hundreds of bird calls and songs. 

Bird sound identification
Bird sound Photo
American crow

American crow

American goldfinch

Goldfinch

American robin

American robin

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Bewick's Wren

Bewick's wren

Black-billed magpie

Black-billed magpie

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

House finch

House finch

Belted kingfisher

Belted kingfisher

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee

Steller's Jay

Steller's Jay

Varied thrush

Varied thrush

 

Lesson 3: Using smartphones for science

Community scientists – like you – can help provide important information about wildlife populations and trends. With easy-to-use apps like eBird and iNaturalist, it’s more fun than ever to contribute to community science.  

Watch this 3-minute video from eBird to learn about community science and how you can get involved.  

Activity: Join the eBird community science project

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, communities across the Pacific Northwest have been urged to practice social distancing to slow the infection rate and protect those most at risk. This has resulted in a rapid shift in human behavior that could impact birds in urban and suburban neighborhoods. You can help researchers gather important data.  

How it works:

  • Download the eBird app from the App Store or Google Play or create an account online.  
  • Pick a place to monitor birds in your backyard or neighborhood. 
  • Observe birds at that location for 10 minutes. Record all the birds you see or hear in eBird. 
  • Return to the same location (ideally at the same time of day) at least once a week to record your observations. 
  • Submit a checklist for each count and include the phrase "social distancing survey" in the comment field.