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Introduce Kids to Birding in a National Park

by Barbara Rogers

Jun 26, 2024

© BiancoBlue | Dreamstime.com

North America

It might be the bright colors that first attract kids to birds — the red flash of a cardinal or the brilliant gold of the yellow warbler, but beyond these distinctive, Crayola-colored birds, a world of nature discoveries opens up to kids when they begin birding, And it’s a good hobby for kids to take with them on your family travels.


Watching for birds is a gateway to the wider world of our natural environment and, for kids, it has all the fun of a treasure hunt. Your backyard or nearby park is a good place to begin looking for the flash of color or listening to the chirp of an unseen bird, but if your family travels include a national park, your kids can find activities and plenty of encouragement there.


National parks make it easy to get kids started birding, with checklists of native birds and park naturalists who can answer questions, lead bird walks and direct you to the best places to find native birds. Junior ranger programs include activities and information to whet kids’ interest and encourage them to notice other natural features — what kind of trees birds nest in, what berries they eat, what environments they favor, etc.


More than 200 Junior Ranger Programs engage kids in national parks, encouraging them to interview rangers, complete puzzles and answer questions about the park, earning a certificate and official Junior Ranger badge.


Look for these colorful birds in the following national parks:


Northern Cardinal (bright red): Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, and Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and other northern parks


Yellow Warbler (bright yellow): Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in West Virginia and Maryland, Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, and Lassen Volcanic National Park in California


Mountain Bluebird (bright blue): Craters of Moon National Monument in Idaho, Arches National Park in Utah, Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Wyoming


Red-headed Woodpecker (red, white and black): Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Virginia, Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park in Tennessee and Georgia, and parks in most states east of the Rockies


Atlantic Puffin (black and white with bright orange bill): Acadia National Park, Maine; puffins nest on small islands off the coast of the national park and can be seen, along with other nesting sea birds, on summer morning tours with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. in Bar Harbor


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