It’s definitely no secret to my family and friends that I like birds.
I prefer to think that they find it charming—the random bird facts I know and my habit of always carrying my binoculars in the car or along on a trip. You never know when you might have an opportunity to see something new or cool!
When I had kids, I knew I wanted them to love birds too. This was easy when they were toddlers and young kids because they loved filling the feeders and watching for the cardinals, Blue Jays, and chickadees out the patio door. But as they got older, their interest started to fade a bit, and I found it harder to include it in our everyday activities.
Now, as a mom with two teens who still wants to encourage an overall appreciation of birds and conservation, I’ve had to be a bit more sneaky. Here’s how I’ve managed to get my teens into bird watching. If you’re working to get a kid or teen interested, I hope these work for you too.
Feed the Birds So You Get an Up-Close Look
Part of having an appreciation for birds is just being around them. Maybe you already feed the birds and it doesn’t seem like your kids notice much, but keep doing what you’re doing. Kids, especially teens, might not show the level of engagement you do, but you do have a subliminal effect.
Just being around birds and seeing them show up in your yard is an experience that will stay with them later in life. Casually point out when you see a hummingbird zoom up to your hanging basket or a woodpecker land on the suet feeder. Even if it feels like they barely notice, it’s still worth laying the groundwork.
Always Keep Binoculars Nearby
There’s a reason I keep a pair of binoculars in my car and always take them on a trip. Wildlife at a distance is much more impressive when you can get a closer look at it—which is especially true with birds. Often times, they’re so far off that you can’t really see the movement or it just looks like a blob in a tree. By having binoculars always on hand, I can quickly show my kids the Bald Eagle’s nest we spotted at a distance or the Great Blue Heron stalking through the water.
These moments are unpredictable, but when they do happen, you’ll want to see it for yourself. Keep binoculars so your kids experience these moments. They might not be nearly as impressed as you’d like them to be, but it’s still part of building that foundation and overall appreciation for birds.
Seek Out Really Cool and Unique Experiences
While the everyday experiences are important to build up habits, sometimes you just can’t compete with really cool or unique experiences. For instance, when we had several Snowy Owls come to my area of Wisconsin a couple of years ago, I made sure to take my kids out to see them in person. They are really cool birds, and my kids still talk about that experience.
You can also seek out other experiences when you’re traveling, like seeing the eagles in Alaska, puffins in Maine, and California Condors in the Grand Canyon. These experiences are definitely worth it, and they can have a lasting impact on your teen.
Check Out Bird Cams Around the Country
The birds of bird cams have stolen the hearts of many. They offer such an amazing experience to see birds up close and in their natural habitat. Nesting season is a really popular time for bird cams. You don’t have to sit and watch for hours, but wait for something interesting to happen, and then casually show it to your teen. They might just be interested enough to then go check it out on their own.
Talk About the Importance of Conservation in a Friendly Way
This is the final one, and it can be tricky to do without sounding preachy. The truth is that conservation is such an important topic these days, and our actions really do make a big impact on the future. Find ways to talk about this to your teen. These are topics they are likely already hearing about in school, but if you can help make that link to birds and conservation and why both matter, it could really make a difference to your kids.
I know it can be hard to pique teens’ interest in birds. They have so many other things going on and interests to explore. But keep bringing up these important topics so we can encourage future birders!