Birds: Activity Ideas & A Reading List

Have you ever participated in an annual bird count?

In 2021, I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count for the first time. (That is, I sat by the window and counted all the birds at my feeder for about 20 minutes. We had snow that day, so most of the birds were either at the feeder or hiding somewhere else.)

That bird count happens in mid-February. Winter might seem like a dull time when most birds have left and only juncos or sparrows are left, huddled around a feeder, trying to survive the cold. If you start watching, though, you might find more than you would expect. Some birds even nest during late winter and early spring. (Great horned owl chicks hatch in January and February, for example).

Plus, now that the weather is warming up, more birds are migrating back to begin their own nesting routines.

Here are some of my favorite picture books about birds, along with some activity pages and other  resources. You can use this list to build a unit study on birds, or just turn them into a fun nature exploration with your kids!

This list includes affiliate links. You can also find a complete list of these books on

Book list:

  • Big Book of Birds, by Yuval Zommer - a gigantic, encyclopedic look at all kinds of birds, their habitats, and their habits.

  • Birdwatch: Backyard Explorer, by Storey Publishing, illustrated by Oana Befort - a guide book for birding outside, with tons of details about birds. 
  • Feathers, Not Just for Flying, by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah Brennan - a detailed, read-aloud picture book about ways that birds use their feathers.

  • Can You Swim?, by Carla Jansen - a new release about different kinds of bird feet and the ways birds use them. Be sure to help Carla out by leaving her an honest review on Amazon after you read her book! 

  • Melusine: Birds of Many Feathers, by Geraldine Oades-Sese, illustrated by Franchesca Guerrero - Melusine is looking for a bird, a very special bird. This book takes kids on an adventure with her, as she checks out all the local avian life.

  • How to Find a Bird, by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Diana Sudyka - an easy-to-read introduction to birdwatching.
  • The Bird Alphabet Book, by Jerry Pallota, illustrated by Edgar Stewart - an alphabet book full of information about the 26 birds it features. 
  • Bird Count, by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman - the sweet story about a young girl's birdwatching adventure during the Christmas Bird Count. This would be a good story to read before a hike, or when visiting a bird refuge.

  • Crow not Crow, by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, illustrated by Elizabeth Dulemba - for someone learning their first bird, birds can be confusing--even overwhelming. This book simplifies bird identification and focuses on learning one species at a time. 
  • Birdsongs: A Backwards Counting Book, by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Steve Jenkins - a book of sounds and numbers. It's full of color and sounds and would be a fantastic read-aloud story.
  • Whooo-ku: A Great Horned Owl Story, by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Jonathan Voss - how much do you know about great horned owls? This book has all the information you could need...and it's written entirely in haiku.
  • Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr - a late-night hike and a mysterious owl. This book is a fun outdoor adventure for kids to share with their families.
  • Snow Birds, by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Jenni Desmond - a noisy onomatopoeic look at birds and their sounds, focusing on how birds survive the winter.

  • My Happy Year by E. Bluebird, by Paul Meisel - the diary of a bluebird's first year of life, from the day it hatches through the summer and back to nesting season. This is a fun picture book, and a great read-aloud story for young children.

  • My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird, by Paul Meisel - what's a hummingbird's life like? This is a newer release book in the same series' as Meisel's bluebird book, and it's another fantastic (imaginary) journal from a lovely, fascinating animal.

  • Hello Crow, by Candace Savage and Chelsea O'Byrne - do crows remember people? This is a cute story about a girl who learns how to make friends with a crow. 
  • Fussy Flamingo, by Shelly Vaughan James, illustrated by Matthew Rivera - a fanciful look at flamingos and what they eat. It's a great nature story--and is a fun story for families with picky eaters.

  • Flamingo Sunset, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas - like Fussy Flamingo, this book takes a look at the life of a young flamingo. It's more information, but a fun read with lovely illustrations.
  • Emu, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne - a fantastic nonfiction read-aloud book about the life of a truly exotic bird. This is one of my all-time favorites, and one that I reread regularly.

Related Topics:

Birds also have some traits that they share with other animals. My book Who Laid the Egg? shows the different kinds of animals who lay eggs, including birds. You can find a read-aloud video and printable activity pages for it here, including a diagram of a chicken’s egg and coloring pages for several different animals.

My picture book, Who Laid the Egg? is a very simple guessing-game story, great for preschoolers and younger kids. If you have elementary-age kids who want more details, however, I also recommend:

  • An Egg is Quiet, by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long - a gorgeous picture book introduction to eggs and egg-laying animals.

  • A Nest is Noisy, by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long - more about eggs, focused on the young animals that hatch from them.

Other Resources:

The Cornell Lab has created a free bird ID app, Merlin

For young artists, check out The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws, a thorough introduction to sketching birds and building a nature journal.

And finally, since one of my personal goals is to create a wildlife-friendly yard, I’ve created a handy checklist that you can print off and use to check whether your yard or your neighborhood are bird-friendly. Most people are used to doing extra work on their yard to keep dead flowers off plants or rake up all the leaves in the fall, so feel free to use this list as a guide for doing less work in your yard!

You should be able to select the image above and print or save it, depending on whether it's easier to use it digitally or print it out for your children to use.

What is your favorite bird, or birding activity?

If you have family tips for birdwatching, feel free to share it in the comments. I love getting more ideas for nature activities!