Our two-year-old nephew took to birds early in his life, pointing them out and calling them “Bbah” to our delight. Owls soon became a firm favorite and he would flip through our bird field guides searching for them and delighting when he came upon them. One day while frowning and looking quite pained, he said “Owww”. We thought something was wrong, but then he said “Owww-l” and before we knew it he was hooting and could recognize the differences between great horned owls, barred owls, snowy owls and great grey owls! For his first birthday, we bought him a Roger Tory Peterson hardcover bird guide, which he now calls his “Owl Book”. He knows chickadees and nuthatches too, and of course cardinals and woodpeckers. I’m amazed at his ability to absorb, understand and retain all this information, and as adults we have a responsibility to encourage his interest and knowledge further. He has caught up with us quickly, so we are now learning with him, not just what birds look like, but what they sound like too (he now does an excellent loon call) and how they behave.
A wonderful learning opportunity can be had by all (especially for little kids and folks with failing eyes) with a window-mounted bird feeder. We hung a peanut feeder from a hook right on a window next to our kitchen table and we were inches away from tufted titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and more! Who needs binoculars with birds this close? Unfortunately squirrels did their best to crash the party and we had to eventually change tactics but for the month or so that the feeder was up we really got to know these birds a vast deal better and we witnessed some fascinating behaviors. I’ll also never forget our nephew saying “hi chick-a-dee!” from the other side of the window when one showed up for a peanut snack.