Family Bird Watching and The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 12-15, 2021

By Jenny Sites February 11, 2021

While my family has been home during COVID we have taken more interest in the outdoors. We have been trying to get outside more and encourage the kids to take a look around and pay more attention to what we (literally) have in our own back yard.  One of the things that we discovered was bird watching. We started with one window birdfeeder and we’re up to three now. The bird feeders are clear and suction cup to the window. The birds fly right up into the feeder and we can watch them eat from inside.  We enjoy looking up the birds that we see dining – so far we have seen a pair of Cardinals, a woodpecker, a titmouse, a sparrow,  mourning doves, chickadee and what we think might be a Brown Thrasher. The Prince William Conservation Alliance has a list of commonly found birds to help you get started.

We have had a lot of fun together as a family watching and learning about birds. It’s a fun way to get outside, get fresh air and learn something new. It’s a great reason to head to your local park or take a walk around the neighborhood. You can even make it into a competition or scavenger hunt to keep the kids engaged. 

To get you started, here are a few things we have learned about birds and birdwatching:

  • Diurnal (sleep at night) birds typically eat early in the morning and evening.
  • Getting different size bird feeders encourages different types of birds. 
  • Sunflower seeds are popular with our birds, but make a mess. You can purchase pre-shelled sunflower seeds but they cost a little more.
  • Mealworms seem to be a favorite of all of our birds. We add those to the seed we put out and watch them dig through the seed for the mealworms.
  • The chickadee, thrasher and woodpecker usually choose the bird feeder with dry fruit over the feeder with regular wild bird food.
  • No matter how high we put the bird feeders on our windows, the squirrels still try to get food. While we do not mind feeding the squirrels – we actually enjoy watching them too - we do mind them hogging the bird feeders or knocking them down. We have found that squirrels do not like hot foods, but it does not bother the birds. Adding a little capsaicin or hot peppers to the bird feeder can deter squirrels from taking over the feeders.
  • Binoculars add to the bird watching fun. You can see them up close without scaring them off.

We have also discovered that there are a lot of other birdwatchers out there. Bird lovers have come together for “The Great Backyard Bird Count” which takes place each year near Valentine’s Day. This year it takes place February 12-15 and anyone is invited to participate. 

Here’s how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

  1. Sign up online at
  2. Optional: Download the Audubon App. This app will help you determine which birds you have spotted so that you can count them.
  3. Head outside for at least 15 minutes and look for birds!  You can use the app to record what you find or write it down.  If you’re new to bird watching, you might want to practice identifying birds ahead of your count or take a lot of photos to refer back to when you submit your count.
  4. After the count, log back on to the website to see what other people counted and reported in their areas.

Happy Bird Watching!


CRAFT - DIY Birdfeeders:

Cookie Cutter Birdfeeder

Pinecone Birdfeeder

Recycled Craft Birdfeeder