Spring is in the air. The grass is getting greener, robins are singing their hearts out, and a steady stream of migratory songbirds are passing by on their way to their breeding grounds. For those of us who are used to getting out in nature to witness the magic of spring migration, being homebound during this time can be pretty depressing. But even if you don’t have the luxury of a backyard or are unable to enjoy walks outside at this time, you can still get your bird fix without ever having to leave your home.
1.) Draw Birds
Learning to draw birds can be a relaxing activity and might remind you why you love birds in the first place! Drawing can also encourage you to look more carefully at bird anatomy. You may even learn something new (e.g. a bird’s knees do NOT bend backwards. Their knees are hidden up in their body feathers, and birds actually walk on their toes).
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you might surprise yourself by what you can create with the right instruction. Before you start, learn the basics about drawing realistic birds. When you’re ready, check out step-by-step instructions for drawing an adorable Song Sparrow, Blue Jay, or Northern Parula. If you’re feeling a bit intimidated by the prospect of recreating a Robert Bateman-level scene, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has printable (and free!) colouring pages that both adults and kids can enjoy.
2.) Watch Baby Birds
Many birds around the world are heading full swing into the breeding season, and you can share in the excitement and discovery from the comfort of your own home with live bird cams hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
In New Zealand, the massive Northern Royal Albatross chick is getting bigger and bolder by the day, and regularly draws a variety of curious avian visitors (including a lanky White-faced Heron, an inquisitive Little Owl, and mischievous teenage albatrosses). In Bermuda, the incredibly fluffy Bermuda Petrel chick is spending most of its day sleeping and waiting for mom and dad’s meal deliveries, but its sweet yawns, scratching sessions, and ‘nestorations’ make for entertaining viewing. Big Red and Arthur, the Red-tailed Hawks in Ithaca, New York, are busy incubating three beautiful white eggs with reddish speckles and will hopefully welcome their chicks into the world by the end of April. Choose your favourite bird cams and watch the babies grow every day!
3.) Learn Their Language
Becoming familiar with bird songs and calls can open up a whole new world to understanding and appreciating their fascinating lives. Not only will you be able to identify birds that may otherwise be hidden from you, but they also might let you in on what’s going on in their world. That American Robin in your yard that’s making a strange, high pitched ‘seep’ noise? She has spotted a lurking Cooper’s Hawk perched nearby and is warning the neighbourhood about the sudden danger. That group of American Crows making a ruckus in the trees? They have discovered a roosting Great Horned Owl (one of their sworn enemies) and will not tolerate the intrusion.
Even if you can’t enjoy birds in person at the moment, now is a great time to take your skills to the next level so that you’re ready to identify birds by sound when we can once again safely enjoy our parks and natural areas. And there are some great online resources to help you. Dendroica is a free resource where you can create a custom list of the bird species found in your province or state and quiz yourself on their songs and calls. If you’re more into games, Larkwire is another fun and effective (but paid) option to learn bird sounds, and is designed for both complete beginners and advanced birders.
How are you enjoying birds from home during the pandemic? Connect with @FLAPCanada on Facebook or Twitter and share your own tips!