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Books for studying your local feathered dinosaurs January 22 2015, 0 Comments

When you are looking for real living things to study and observe in your outdoor environment, the birds of your area can be good subjects even in the middle of winter. Birds are still called class Aves by some scientists, but it is well accepted that they are a branch of the theropod dinosaurs, so they are nested within the Class Reptilia. They are related to the maniraptors, an extinct lineage of small, feathered dinosaurs. The birds that are alive now – the extant or modern birds – belong to the lineage Neornithes. But enough of long names. The real excitement is actually watching birds as they go about their lives.

  Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette Le Blanc Cate (2013) is a great resource for launching bird studies. This book was the prize-winner in the 2014 book awards from Science Books and Films (SB&F). See http://www.aaas.org/news/2014-aaassubaru-sbf-prizes-celebrate-fieldwork-and-citizen-science . The book encourages children to observe birds and to sketch them. It is illustrated in cartoon style, with the birds making many human-type comments, but elementary children are not likely to confuse the messages from the birds in this book with real bird communications. They will likely find it amusing and engaging, and hopefully it will inspire them to see and learn more about their local birds.

  If you want a more serious look at bird vocalizations, try Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why by Lita Judge (2012). This looks like a good lower elementary read, and it has further information about the bird species shown.

Of course you will need a good field guide to birds so that children can identify the birds they observe. There are many excellent ones available. For the whole US, I like The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley (2000). You may find it useful to have a more local guide as well because it reduces children’s (and adults’) frustration when they are trying to identify a bird they have seen. For a children’s book about a man who pioneered modern field guides, see For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Petersen by Peggy Thomas and Laura Jacques.

Children may wish to add their observations to a classroom record, a field guide to their local birds. Will they see the same birds each year? Will the birds change throughout the year? To answer these questions, children will have to observe, identify, record, and see what everyone finds. Happy birding!