“Pay attention to the birds.” That is what I say to my children, my students, and visitors who come to Barking Frog Farm. There is a lot to see if you tune in to their activity. Watch for clues. During the day birds eat, look for new food sources, build and repair nests, patrol their area for predators that need to be chased away. In the spring, they also lay and protect eggs, feed baby birds, and teach babies to fly.
We have baby bluebirds in a birdhouse, baby robins in a nest tucked into the trumpet vine, and woodpecker babies in the attic of our house. I know all of this because I pay attention to the birds.
I have had my eye on a bluebird couple in my backyard. They perch on branches and high objects near the open part of the backyard. It is easy to spot the flashes of blue as they cross the yard. A few weeks ago, I noticed that they were making many trips in and out of the birdhouse—building a nest. After that they stayed closed to the birdhouse—the female sitting on the eggs and the male watching and protecting. A few weeks later, I started hearing the sound of baby birds.
The woodpecker nest was discovered when a woodpecker was rapping on the side of the house. I followed the noise and noticed a hole in the peak of the roof line. The mother made many trips in and out of that hole. When I listened carefully I could hear baby birds.
I didn’t discover the robin until she was sitting on her eggs. The clue was that every time I walked into the backyard a robin would fly out of the trumpet vine that grows on the back of the garage. On my fourth or fifth trip to the backyard, I asked myself, “Is that the same bird flying out of the vine?” “Why does she keep going back to that same spot?” I decided to investigate—to look more closely—and I found a robin’s nest and four baby robins.
My co-teacher, Melissa, and her children, Maddy and Adian, have been following their own robin. During a visit to the library, they noticed a nest high in a bush. Melissa held her camera up over the nest and took a picture. There were two blue eggs in the nest. The next day they visited the nest. As Melissa held up the camera to take a picture of the inside of the nest, Aidan said, “We are collecting data.” The data showed that the robin had layed two more eggs. Robins usually lay four to five eggs in each clutch. In the end, this particular robin layed four eggs.
Different birds eat different kinds of food, and they spend a lot of time looking for food. Where they spend time is a clue to the types of food they eat. Cardinals spend most of their time in trees and shrubs, while robins are usually on the ground. What does this tell us about these birds?
Cardinal, bluejays, and other birds with strong beaks like to eat berries and seeds. They forage in trees and shrubs that produce these foods. Robins enjoy earthworms, so they spend their time on the ground.
Watch the birds in your yard and neighborhood. Notice where they spend their time. Tune in to their behavior. You will be surprised and delighted with what you will see and learn.