Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Book Review: Beginning Birdwatcher’s Book

BirdwatcherCoverBeginning Birdwatcher’s Book with 48 Stickers
By Sy Barlowe
Dover Publications, 2000

One of the things that came The Five-Year-Old’s way this Christmas is Sy Barlowe’s Beginning Birdwatcher’s Book. Designed to be a child’s first log of bird sightings, the book includes 48 birds commonly found across North America, such as the Northern Cardinal, American Crow, and Blue Jay.

For the most part, the book includes birds that are relatively easy to spot and/or relatively common, such as the House Sparrow, Mourning Dove, and European Starling. On receiving the book, The Five-Year-Old and I had already spotted about half the birds in it, which made for an encouraging start.

We knew from reading the Burgess Bird Book for Children last year that spotting the rest would be a matter of being in the right kind of place at the right time. Fortunately, we are in a great part of the country for it. The prospect of seeing an osprey at the Cape, a Downy Nuthatch at Moose Hill, or a Northern Flicker at Mount Auburn is an excellent way to pry The Five-Year-Old out of the playroom and into the world.


The Five-Year-Old’s comments on the murder of crows we spotted along the highway on a recent trip to Dallas. (Photo: Shala Howell)

But don’t think you have to call Massachusetts home to enjoy this book.

Roughly half of the birds in this book have ranges that span the entire United States. Several others, such as the Scarlet Tanager, Black-capped Chickadee, and Turkey Vulture, only appear in certain parts of the country (the East, North, and South, respectively). Two birds, the Snowy Owl and the Bald Eagle, are going to be a challenge for any child to find (outside of zoos) due to the sporadic, and in the case of the Snowy Owl, seasonal, nature of their appearances in the United States. Folks who live in the Rocky Mountains fare the worst with this book, as several of the bird ranges explicitly exclude the Rocky Mountains. Still, no matter where you live in the country you’re going to have to do some traveling if your child wants to spot all the birds in their natural habitat.

Fortunately, this 24-page book is slim and light enough to slip into your child’s backpack or travel bag. Each page provides basic information about two birds, including their common and scientific names, size, the type of nest they build, the number of eggs they lay, their favorite food, and general information about their range. There’s also space for your child’s own observations, including the date they spotted the bird, what time and where they saw it, and any other comments they want to make about it.

The book provides 48 colorful stickers that your child can apply to the bird’s basic information page. The Five-Year-Old has been adding the stickers as she spots the birds, but you could just as easily have your child place the stickers immediately to create a visual guide for their bird-watching efforts out in the world.

Whether you are looking for a way to encourage your child’s love of nature or simply a way to pry your pint-sized urban sophisticate off the couch and into a meadow, this book may just do the trick.

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