Good birdwatching book for kids?

We have a birdfeeder and a hummingbird feeder outside our living room window, and my son and I really enjoy watching the birds. Lately he has been even more interested in it, and tonight he started keeping a log of the birds we’ve seen. What’s more, he recognizes the birds we’ve identified when he sees them again. He’ll announce “there’s a cardinal and a chickadee now!” and he’ll be right. He has expressed a desire to have a book where he can look up birds, and I’d like to get him one. Anyone know of a good one that is easy for a kid to use, organized well, good pictures, etc? The kind of book that has big pictures that are easy to browse through to find what you are looking for, and then gives a paragraph or two of information would be great–not one that has three pages on each bird. He can look things up on Google if he wants more information.

That sounds great. How old is your son?

In my experience most field guides don’t have more than a paragraph or two on each bird. There usually isn’t room for more. I’m partial to A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America by Roger Tory Peterson. It covers where you live and is the granddaddy of bird field guides.

Peterson strongly believed in using drawings rather than photographs because he could emphasize the points he wanted to help identify each bird, rather than be at the mercy of how a particular bird looked under particular lighting conditions on a particular day, which is sometimes the case with field guides that use photographs.

I started getting seriously interested in birds when I was about 9 or 10 years old and that book was quite easy for me to use. The birds are organized more by how they look rather than their taxonomic relationships to each other, so that similar looking birds are on the same page and you can compare them directly.

If (as it seems) he’s genuinely interested, then it may not be necessary to look for a book aimed at children.

There are a bunch of really good bird books out now. My favorite is the Sibley guide to birds, though the National Geographic field guide is also first-rate. One thing you definitely want (and which the Peterson guides unfortunately don’t seem to provide) is distribution maps on the same page as the species illustrations. Your son will quickly learn some geography as he checks where a particular bird tends to be found in summer.

Birding is an excellent life-long hobby and a great thing to encourage in the young.

He will be 11 next month. And no, I wasn’t wanting a book for children just a book that would be accessible enough for a child to find useful. Organized by looks is a good thing, I will check that one out. I will also look at the ones Xema recommended. It will probably come down to price in the end, if they seem similar.

Today in the space of 20-30 minutes at our feeder we saw, and he logged:
3 cardinals (2 female)
5 bluejays (all at once, on the grass below the feeder)
chickadee(s)
a tufted titmouse
at least 3 hummingbirds
some sort of finch (several of the same kind)
some sort of dove
a white breasted nuthatch
and a red-headed woodpecker
oh, and some rather nondescript brown bird about the size of a cardinal but without enough distinguishing features to describe any other way than “brown”.

That’s a great bird to see - really noteworthy. (But note that lots of woodpeckers have some red on their head.)

Often known as an LBB (little brown bird).

No it was quite distinctly a red-headed woodpecker. I looked up woodpeckers (I knew it was some kind of woodpecker) in Google image search until I found a picture that looked just like it, then did another image search on the name that one was called just to be sure, and poof, there were a zillion pictures of the guy sitting right outside the window.
Here is a picture that my son took (it’s a little blurry, he was trying to catch it before it flew away, and this was taken through a kinda dirty window) http://pics.livejournal.com/opalcat/pic/0006888b

I have all the field guides mentioned, plus the Golden field guide as well as several devoted to specific families. They all have their strength and weaknesses, but you can capitalize on their strengths by looking at the beginning of the guides to see how they should be used. Guides are often packed with information, and properly interpreting them will more quickly eliminate species during identification.

Perhaps your library might have some guides that you can take for a trial run and see which one your son likes?

Oddly enough, the one that I use most for identification has, I think, one drawing of a complete bird. (This pdf link show an attempt to bring Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds into tabular form.)

Most definitely a red-headed woodpecker - congratulations to your son. He obviously has great promise as a birdwatcher!

That was a beef a lot of people had for a long time with the Peterson guides but according to the Amazon reviews I linked to that is no longer the case with the current edition…the maps are now on the same page as everything else.

Heck, I can remember when there were NO range maps in Peterson. They described the bird’s ranges in the text!

Opal the part about the the 5 blue jays is interesting. This time of year you are likely to see lots of family groups (many species, not just blue jays)…Mom and/or Dad and their newly fledged young.

If you look closely you can sometimes pick out which ones are the babies, their plumage usually looks different, maybe a little fluffier.

One of the three cardinals is definitely a baby… that or he’s really, really messy about personal grooming :slight_smile: