Book gets kids into birding

Regardless of the season, there’s always something to learn in the world of bird-watching.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” said Monica Russo, a birding enthusiast since the age of 9 and author of many children’s nature books, including her newest, “Bird­ology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds” (Chicago Review Press, $15.95). “You don’t even need expensive binoculars to get started.”

Russo, whose book is geared to kids and their families, said bird-watching can teach a variety of lessons, from learning about geography and weather patterns to heightening your sense of observation.

“It teaches you art and design, by looking at the patterns and colors of each bird,” she said. “You’re evaluating your own senses — sight and hearing — and increasing your ability to notice detail. And you don’t need a rural setting because birds are everywhere.”

Some of the smartest birds, Russo said, are the crow and raven, which “can recognize individuals.” Chickadees are social, “and known to eat out of your hand in the winter,” while blue jays are so good at mimicking other birds, “even the veteran birder will be looking for that red-tailed or red-shouldered hawk, only to see the blue jay swoop down.”

Activities in her book include feeding tips for various species, as well as setting up a birdbath, which is easy and rewarding. “You’ll see birds drinking, taking baths. [Just] be sure to change that water daily,” she said.

The book is filled with ways to learn about avian behaviors in activities marked as “Try This,” “Look For” and “Listen For.” She also wants to allay the fears of any child who might be wary of our feathered friends.

“Every once in a great while the tufted titmouse, which is a little gray bird with a pointed crest, will land on your head and start trying to pick up your hairs for its nest,” Russo said. “They are just building a nest, not trying to eat you!”

Chicago Tribune