How to Be a Birdwatcher?

Ask Science interviews a couple of junior scientists (his young daughters) about the art and science of birding. Get tips on how your kids can become birdwatchers too.

Lee Falin, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #57

How to Be a Birdwatcher?

My family is full of junior scientists. For example, my two daughters, codenamed Jay and Robin, are huge fans of birds and birdwatching. I asked them to join me today talk about the art and science of birding. Find out how your kids can get involved in this fun outdoor activity.>

Ask Science: So we’re here to talk about birds. Tell me, why do you like to study birds?

Jay: I think they’re interesting because they’re animals but their ways are very different from humans, so that makes them very interesting to study.

Ask Science: How about you Robin?

Robin: I think that it’s interesting to study them because with humans there’s only one type of human: human. But with birds there are all sorts of different species all over the world.

Ask Science: So let’s say I wanted to get started studying birds. What would be the first thing that I should do?

Jay: Well first you should get some books from the library, or buy them off the Internet; books that teach you how to study birds.

Ask Science: Do you have any particular recommendations?

Robin: Well I think that the RSPB books are good.

Ask Science: The RSPB, that’s the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; that’s a British society, is that correct? And in America they have books like the Peterson’s field guide, which is a similar type of book. Is that right?

Robin: Yes

Ask Science: So why is it important to have a good field guide? Why does that help you?

Robin: Well, if you see a bird, and you don’t know what it is, and you’re like: “What kind of bird is this?” you can look at your bird field guide and flip through the pages to try and find it.

Ask Science: So you’ve got your books, what do you need next?

Jay: Well, you need some equipment. The first thing you’d probably want is a notebook and some pencils to write things down, and maybe some binoculars to see birds that are far away.

Ask Science: And what sorts of things do you usually write down?

Jay: I usually write down things about the bird, and what the bird is doing. Because when you look the birds up in the field guide, it also talks about how the different birds act, so that can make them easier to find.

Robin: I think you should get some colored pencils to draw pictures of the birds, which also makes them easier to find if the book is illustrated.

Ask Science: Once you’ve gathered all of this information, what do you do with it?

Robin: Now you know different birds, so if someone says to you “Wow, I wonder what that bird is, it’s so nice.” You can say, “It’s a robin.”


Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.