Get Ready for the Christmas Bird Count with These Books

This picture highlights the book Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save our Feathered Friends by Heidi E. Y. Stemple

The first Audubon Christmas Bird Count took place 119 years ago. The purpose of the event was to save birds from a hunting tradition. Hunters would gather on Christmas day to shoot as many birds as they could. The person with the most dead birds won the competition. Frank Chapman wanted to change this institution. Instead of counting dead birds, he asked people to tally the live birds they saw in nature.

Chapman’s Christmas Bird Count made a difference. People began to notice and wonder about the birds around them. The event grew every year, and today, thousands of people participate. Take a look at the scope of the event by clicking on the “119th Christmas Bird Count Map of Active Circles” from the Audubon Society.

Inspire learners to participate in the event next month. Encourage them to look in the sky and notice the birds. Read the books below to learn how to join the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends by Heidi E.Y. Stemple and Clover Robin

Author Heidi E.Y. Stemple has a personal connection with the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Here’s why:

  • She grew up counting owls with her father on Christmas day.
  • Stemple participates in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count every year with the Owl Moon Gang (OMG).

Stemple introduces readers to Frank Chapman by describing his passion for birds. She explains how people felt about nature when Chapman was alive. Many people did not care about wildlife. Chapman started the Audubon Christmas Bird Count to make people care. This story will inform readers how Chapman’s efforts made a difference. Information about getting involved in a bird count is included on the final pages of the book.

The illustrations, by Clover Robin, are made with with constructed cutouts from textured paper. My favorite page is featured below. The double-page spread shows a world map with different birds on each continent. People peer through binoculars in search of the birds. Think about what the illustrator is telling readers with this collage.

Illustration of a world map showing birds stationed in each continent. Bird watchers find the birds with binoculars.

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond and Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Cover of Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond and Stephanie Fizer Coleman

What does it take to be a bird counter? Author Susan Edwards Richmond shows us in her book Bird Count. The story starts before the sun rises. A young girl and her mother bundle up and meet their team leader. After they grab binoculars, a field guide, a notebook and a pencil, the group heads out to find birds. Through their journey, readers learn the procedures of the Christmas Bird Count.

Illustrator Stephanie Fizer Coleman enriches the story with digital art. Readers see how to tally birds by looking at the notebook on the right side of each page. The list grows when more birds are spotted.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Heading to a summary about Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

I’m sure you are familiar with Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. It’s a story about a girl who goes owling with her father. Guess who the girl is in the story? It’s Heidi E.Y. Stemple, the author of Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends! Isn’t that fascinating? Yolen captured a small moment of her husband teaching young Heidi how to find owls.

It takes a quiet listener to find owls in the dark. Listen to different owl calls on The Distinctive Calls of Owls: A Sampler by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Do you recognize any of the sounds?

One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon and Frann Preston-Gannon

The cover of One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon and Frann Preston-Gannon

This poetic story begins as a counting book. We see one bird in a tree on the first page. He flies off and joins other birds. Soon, hundreds of birds fly with the original ten. A murmuration forms and a beautiful dance begins in the sky. Frann Preston-Gannon does an amazing job creating movement as the birds twist and turn in a massive group. Learners will love the lyrical phrases that describe the actions of the birds. For a lesson idea that connects with the Next Generation Science Standards, check out my post onlibrary lessons.

Mindfulness Activity

Sometimes, just noticing and wondering about birds can be just as important as counting them. Take a quiet walk with learners on the playground or around the school and simply watch the birds fly by. Bring notebooks and pencils for learners who want to take notes or draw pictures.

What birding activities do you encourage with library resources? Please share in the comments below!


Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
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Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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