Favorite Kids’ Books: Birds

On this page, you’ll find a growing list of children’s books that I’ve paired with some of my photos, videos, and blog posts. These are books I think will grab kids’ interest, maybe fill in some informational blanks, and—I hope—ignite a lifetime of curiosity about our natural world.

(If you wish to buy a book, consider Bookshop.org, where profit from online book purchases is distributed among independent bookstores.)

This beautiful book will invite the youngest birders to listen outdoors for calls and songs. Written by Rita Gray with Kenard Pak’s gorgeous art, the rhyming story is spare and lyrical. Additional text renders each featured bird’s song or call. The art is stunning. All in, this is a lovely book that’s educational too, suited for kids as young as three or so. It would be great fun to follow a reading with recorded songs played from one of the free bird ID apps, such as Audubon’s or the Merlin app from the Cornell Ornithology Lab.

One of the book’s featured birds is the Wood Thrush. I was lucky enough to film a nesting pair. Here’s mama building the nest while dad sings his heart out. Be sure to turn up the volume–his flute-like song is hauntingly beautiful.

This is a great book for the youngest bird watcher. Each featured bird is introduced using short sentences that explain where, how, or what material the bird uses to build its nest. The birds are a mix of familiar backyard species and others a child is less likely to see. The illustrations are beautiful and highly effective at showing the birds’ nesting habits.

I sometimes see one of this book’s featured birds, the Brown-headed Cowbird. This bird is a brood parasite–it lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. Almost unbelievably, most often the ‘host’ parents raise the hatchling cowbird as their own. Here’s a clip of one female cowbird where I usually see them–peering through my window! It happens each spring, and I always wonder what the bird thinks she’s seeing.

Every page of Snow Birds is filled with music. Bird calls and songs are beautifully rendered in onomatopoeia. The author writes rich, vivid text, in a variety of rhyme meters and schemes, to explain how seventeen birds adapt to winter’s harsh weather. The illustrations are simply gorgeous. This is a terrific book to help kids discover not only birds but also the magic of musical language.

One bird in this book brightened one of those won’t-winter-just-end days. You know, when the calendar says it’s spring but nope. The snow keeps coming! I heard ‘fee-bee! fee-bee!’ and sure enough, it was a black-capped chickadee. This brave little bird lives in Michigan year-round. Read its account in Snow Birds and you’ll get a sense of how it fluffs and puffs to stay warm in winter.

This little book—perfectly sized for pockets—is a huge, kid-friendly intro to ornithology, as its title promises. It has text, illustrations, and photos about bird evolution, biology, habitat, and conservation. It’s also a field guide to more than 100 birds, with each entry featuring a photo and key bird facts. And… it’s a hands-on project book—how to make your yard bird-friendly, keeping a bird journal, and more. Kids from about third grade will browse and read this book on their own. Younger kids will enjoy it with some adult help. For a wonderful gift to spark a kids’ interest in birding, I’d pair this with some kid-friendly (but not toy) binoculars and a grown-up bird book specific to your state. My favorite bird books are by Stan Tekiela, who has published guides for 30 states. They’re organized by bird color, for quick and easy bird identification.

Here’s one bird featured in Zambello’s book, the Downy Woodpecker. Her chest is all puffed up. Maybe’s she proud to be featured in such a terrific kids’ book?

For kids, here’s an activity book suited for the youngest birders, written and illustrated by nature artist Sy Barlowe. The book is a kid-friendly birding journal—when a child sees an included bird, they affix the bird’s sticker to its fact page and write a few words about where and when the bird was sighted. Just a few facts are included for each bird, so additional tools are needed (binocs, an adult bird book) to ensure successful birding adventures.

I wrote a blog post about this Brown-headed Cowbird. She seemed to be surveilling my home, 42 days in a row. These brood parasites (the little sneaks lay their eggs in other birds’ nests) aren’t the most popular bird. So I was delighted to find the cowbird featured in Barlowe’s book.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird staring through my (very dirty!) window

This fantastic nonfiction book is geared for kids aged 10-14 years, grades 4-6, and yes, poop science turns out to be quite surprising! Montgomery explains how scientists are using feces to ferret out answers to serious puzzles and important research questions. The science is front-and-center, and so is the fun. Montgomery’s writing is kid-friendly: lively, loaded with puns, and often irreverent. She even includes a poop lexicon. ‘Grow your vocabulary with this list,’ Montgomery says, ‘but don’t forget to mind your manners.’ Young readers may be inspired to scout for scat, one of the discovery activities Montgomery suggests for inquisitive readers.

I wrote a blog post about a bird-poo encounter after robin parents seemed to be shirking their nest-sanitation doo-ties. I launched an investigation and began monitoring their daily feed-and-clean routine. The results surprised me, and in the end, I sure could empathize with the hard-working bird parents. Here’s part of that story:

Male robin catches fecal sac eliminated by a nestling
This dad is doing clean-up duty.

How to Find a Bird, by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Diana Sudyka. This beautiful picture book shows kids how to use both their eyes and ears to locate birds. We meet a variety of birds, both in their habitats and at backyard feeders. One of the best features is the book’s onomatopoetic renderings of many of the birds’ calls and songs. They’re as fun to read as they are informative. I love this book!

Here’s one of a zillion bird stories I see outside my window. This one’s a favorite and one of the best reasons I can think of to help kids learn to find and love birds. I could watch this gorgeous, flirty wood duck pair over and over.

This super-fun kids’ book is The Little Book of Woodland Bird Songs, by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham. The book has beautiful bird images and info, but the magic is in the buttons kids press to hear the birds’ songs! See and hear 12 North American birds. By the same authors, a second book features backyard birds and their songs. These books are great for toddlers on up. My granddaughter is two, and this is one of her favorites. Even babies would love these bird songs.

This White-breasted Nuthatch, seen here on one of our deck railings, is included in the book.

Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends, by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, with stunning illustrations (lots of birds!) by Clover Robin. The book is about Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count, which takes place every year near the end of December. The event began in 1900 when ornithologist Frank Chapman wanted to replace a traditional Christmas bird hunt when people would shoot as many birds as possible. I learned about Chapman in this terrific kids’ nonfiction picture book.

Here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker in late December. I’m sure he’d want to be counted!

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond, Illustrated (beautifully!) by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. Here’s another terrific picture book about Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. The protagonist is a girl who participates in the event. Readers follow her as she goes through town counting the birds she sees and hears. There is also information about migration, bird calls, and bird-spotting techniques. It’s a simple story, fun to read, and may inspire budding birders.

Here’s a Pileated Woodpecker, feathers all floofed on a chilly day. With that bright red crest, isn’t he the perfect bird for counting at Christmas?

Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, Publishers (for book covers), Carol Doeringer.