Lester’s 4-year-old granddaughter is fascinated by birds, especially owls. She can identify most any owl by sight, can identify several by their call, and can host rather engaging conversations about the habitat, diet, prey, and size of several different types. Her fascination is fed by a steady diet of books read to her by her parents. She is equally interested in fiction and nonfiction and is quick to let you know whether what you are reading is something that birds do in nature or only in stories. One book she likes caught Lester’s attention. A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart features several birds revealing the impact of threats to their habitats. Now the whole family is making conscious efforts to protect native birds and make them welcome.
Her interest led us to do a bit of exploration of our own. Did you know that the bird population in North America has been in significant decline? The National Audubon Society reports that North America has lost more than 1 in 4 birds in the last fifty years. Researchers indicate that it isn’t just threatened species that are declining. Many of your favorite backyard birds are also.
CBS news reported that while most bird species have seen a significant decline in population, the numbers of ducks and geese have actually increased. This fact may be attributed to the work of Ducks Unlimited which was formed over one hundred years ago by a group of waterfowl hunters concerned about declining population. Ducks Unlimited has worked to protect waterfowl by purchasing and protecting wetlands. The group has also effectively encouraged legislation and conservation easements on private land to protect the birds.
While many species of wetland birds have benefitted from these efforts, other species of birds have suffered due to a loss of habitat. Specifically, there is a reported 53% decline among grassland birds, a 33% decline in birds that thrive in boreal forests, and a decline of 29% among birds found in western forests. In addition to a loss of habitat, the decline in bird populations has also been attributed to the use of “deadly pesticides…, feral cats…, collisions with buildings, cell phone towers, electricity generating windmills and powerlines; and of course, global warming.” (CBS News, Sept.19, 2019) https://www.cbsnews.com/video/staggering-decline-in-americas-bird-population/#x
Is there anything we can do about this situation? Of course! Oftentimes, children’s spark for curiosity and inquiry are ignited by the books read to them by the adults in their lives.
We have included a list of books that can spark an interest in birds and raise awareness of the significant decline in the bird population. This collection could be used to launch an inquiry into birds, birdwatching, conservation, reclaiming habitat, providing food and shelter for native and migrating birds and more. Perhaps you’ll share the CBS news clip to spark a bit of interest and generate initial questions to launch your inquiry.
About Birds by Cathryn Sill (Peachtree)
A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart (Peachtree)
Bird Watch by Christine Matheson (Greenwillow)
Birds Build Nests by Yvonne Winer (Charlesbridge)
Birds by Carme Lemniscantes (Candlewick)
Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond (Peachtree)
Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre with Jeff Sayre (Beach Lane Books)
Backyard Bird Watching for Kids by George H. Harrison (Willow Creek Press)
National Audubon Society Pocket Guide Familiar Birds of North America east
National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America 2nd ed. by Jonathan Alderfer and Noah Strycker