One of my favorite things about late fall and winter is watching the birds outside my window. Last year, I got to know a cardinal couple who were regular diners at my feeder. It felt good to offer them and others food even though birds are highly resourceful creatures. When I gazed at them from my window, a feeling of warmth spread through me that eased the winter chill. Robert Lynd says, “In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” Whether you interpret that as being quiet and still in your body or your mind, watching birds stirs our hearts and activates our imaginations — opening us up to mystery, wonder and hope. Plus, it’s just plain fun! My namesake is the robin, but I’m still learning the names of more than 400 birds that visit Missouri (150 of which regularly nest in our state). I love going old school with a printed field guide, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a free app for smartphone and tablet users called Merlin Bird ID that is quite magical and very kid-friendly (one feature I love is the sound identification that takes an audio sample you record and isolates each call or song of any and all birds in the near vicinity).
Below are the steps to make a fun and simple bird feeder. After you set your creation outside and give it some time, see if you can identify the top 20 birds that visit Missouri backyards in the colder months. The library also has a wonderful Virtual Activity Bundle to help keep young minds active while indoors (recommended for ages 3-6), and here is a staff-created book list with some favorite picture books about our feathered friends.