Does your middle school child love birds, but then he gets frustrated when trying to identify them? Many children do. Unfortunately, field guides that help identify birds can be really hard to use, especially for children who aren’t good at reading and spelling. Luckily, there is a great website called WhatBird.com that is amazingly easy to use.
If your child selects the “Expert” tab, he can enter answers to questions like where he saw the bird, what color it was, and what its general shape was. Most of these answers are in picture form, so even a poor reader can answer correctly. Depending on the information entered, the website will tell him what kind of bird he likely saw. It will also play the sounds the bird makes so your child can begin to identify birds by what he hears.
There is also an app called iBird Explorer created by Mitch Waite Press, which is free for Apple’s iPad and iPhone, Google’s Android, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. (And though the iPod isn’t listed, my young grandson recently downloaded the free app onto his iPod and it worked great.) It is easy to carry along when you and your child go out bird watching.
When using What Bird? and iBird Explorer, children learn to:
- use field guides in a format that is easier for them to access than traditional guides;
- spend time outside looking for birds instead of staying inside playing electronic games;
- improve their observational skills when trying to figure out which bird they saw (often there are two that are very similar like a purple finch and a house finch);
- identify individual birds and learn about them and their habitats;
- develop an appreciation for nature while having fun
It is very important to help your struggling student find something she can really do well. Who knows—perhaps you’ll have a budding ornithologist on your hands, and “playing” with the iBird app will be the start of a lifelong interest or career!