Backyard Bird Watching


Visiting my grandmother’s farm when she was alive was like walking into an aviary. She loved the birds that would visit her feeders.

From the return of her spring robins, on to the bright summer hummingbirds, orioles, and finches, then the migrating fall birds that would rest overnight at her feeders before flying off again the next morning, and finally her winter cardinals and blue jays, she loved them all.

It was only natural, then, that bird watching became a hobby my girls and I grew to enjoy when we spent time with her. And, now that she’s gone, we welcome our own feathered friends to our backyard, the memories of time spent with my grandmother sweetening our hobby.

photo credit: mytimemachine via photopin cc
photo credit: mytimemachine via photopin cc

Attracting Birds to Your Back Yard

Bird watching is such a fun activity with the kids – and the bonus for winter weather is that you can do it from the warmth of your home! National Birdwatching Day is January 5 and with just a few tips you can have your back yard ready to spot colorful birds – no matter the season!

There are really only two things that birds must have – food and water.

If you happen to live near a pond, creek, or lake, the water portion of the equation is taken care of. If not, a birdbath is an inexpensive attraction for your feathered visitors. (Fleet Farm has a heated bird bath for $20 – perfect for frigid Iowa winters!)

Pine cone bird feeder
Pine cone bird feeder

Who doesn’t remember coating a pine cone in peanut butter and rolling it in birdseed? If you don’t have a pinecone handy, use a toilet paper roll – just coat in peanut butter, roll in birdseed, and slip it on a branch. No peanut butter, no birdseed? String Cheerios on a pipe cleaner or piece of string – the birds will flock to it! (For more bird feeder ideas, visit my For the Birds Pinterest board!)

Those two simple additions to your back yard should have you ready to view some beautiful plumage. If you want to make your back yard a bit more bird friendly, here are a few tips I learned at the South Dakota Birding Festival:

  • Create a bug habitat in a portion of your yard by letting grasses grow tall and seed. Birds think bugs are yummy.
  • Add in bushes or trees that provide seeds, berries, or fruit.
  • To attract hummingbirds, plant bright, nectar-producing flowers.
  • Use multiple feeders. Some birds don’t share well.
Holding a bird at the South Dakota Birding Festival
Holding a bird at the South Dakota Birding Festival

Bird watching is a terrific way to get kids interested in nature – in your own back yard and beyond.

Learn more about the South Dakota Birding Festival, and birding with kids, at Family Rambling.

Is bird watching a hobby you or someone in your family has enjoyed? Tell us about it!


  1. Our family has been enjoying field trips with the Iowa Young Birders. They usually schedule 1-2 free trips per month. It’s a great way for kids to meet other kids who are interested in birds and to learn from friendly mentors.

    We’ve also attended a few Iowa Ornithologists’ Union and Des Moines Audubon events. IOU has an annual family birding event in Johnston in the fall. DSM Audubon has monthly field trips which are not designed for kids, but at which well-behaved children are welcome. They also have a monthly meeting with a speaker, and some of those topics are of interest to kids (this month’s topic is Bats).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here