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! 

  • 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 - a sweet story about a young girl's birdwatching adventure during the Christmas Bird Count.

  • Crow not Crow, by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, illustrated by Elizabeth Dulemba - a story about a child learning to identify her first bird.
  • Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr - a story about a late-night birdwatching adventure, trekking through snow to find a great horned owl.
  • 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 in a fun picture book that's great for young children.
  • Hello Crow, by Candace Savage and Chelsea O'Byrne - a cute story about a girl making friends with a crow.
  • Fussy Flamingo, by Shelly Vaughan James, illustrated by Matthew Rivera - a fanciful look at flamingos and what they eat. 

  • Flamingo Sunset, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas - a more fact-filled story about flamingos, describing how a young flamingo hatches and grows.
  • Emu, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne - a fantastic nonfiction read-aloud book about the life of a truly exotic bird.

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

One of our local arboretums has started a Junior Ranger program, and their February theme is birds. You can download their activity pages for this month here (just scroll down to the section “February- Pacific Northwest Birds”).

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!

What is your favorite bird, or birding activity?