Do It At Home: Birding

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A red-winged blackbird sings - COURTESY OF EVLEEN ANDERSON/AUDUBON PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
  • Courtesy of Evleen Anderson/Audubon Photography Awards
  • A red-winged blackbird sings
With the arrival of spring, birds are busily building nests and singing mating songs. Birdwatching is a perfect backyard activity.

A simple exercise for novice birders is to try to pair a bird with its call. The National Audubon Society has a downloadable bird guide app with photographs and recordings of bird calls. A "Sightings" feature on the app lets you keep track of what birds you’ve seen.

Based in Huntington, Audubon Vermont posts mini lessons for families to follow in their own backyard. “Build Your Own Bird Nest” teaches young naturalists why and how birds build homes. It includes drawings of types of nests easily found in Vermont and instructions for constructing your own nest out of mud, dead leaves and grass clippings. On the National Audubon Society site, there's an interactive game that allows kids to follow the migration journeys of five different bird species, then write their own migration story.



Once you start looking for birds, you’ll probably realize you already know a few species. Here are some local varieties from Audubon’s online Guide to North American Birds:

• Some birds have been Vermont residents all winter — like the small black-capped chickadee. The chickadee’s winter song sounds like “chicka-dee-dee-dee.” Now, as birds begin their mating season, the chickadee serenades, “Hey, sweetie.”

• The rough “squawk” of the American crow is a common sound in our area.

• Near many homes, blue jays, with their blue, black and white feathers, call their own name: “Jay! Jay! Jay!”

• With warmer weather, the Canada goose and its distinctive honk is returning from the South. These large birds love ponds and lakes.

• The American robin is easily identifiable by its brown feathers and red front. Look on lawns and in gardens to see these birds tugging worms from the warming soil. Among the robin’s repertoire is a clear, “Cheerio. Cheery-me,” song.

• Near ponds and wetlands, keep an eye out for red-winged blackbirds. These ebony birds have a brilliant patch of red on their upper wings. This bird’s call sounds like “conk-la-ree” — a classic sign-of-spring song.

• The gray mourning dove coos a familiar tune all over Vermont.

• The northern cardinal’s showy crimson feathers make it easy to spot, but it sings many different songs.

• If you hear a bird’s beak hammering on wood or metal, the culprit is likely a pileated woodpecker. This large bird has a black body, with a tuft of bright red feathers on its head — the flashiest of Vermont’s many woodpeckers.

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