Make your own backyard birding binoculars

Birding is such a popular hobby because everyone can do it. Whether you are backyard birding, taking a hike or even boating, you can always catalogue the birds that you see.

The he Dickinson County Nature Center features nests of some of the most common birds you might see right outside your window.

(Grackles, blackbirds and starlings don't like safflower.)

Take a look at some interesting facts about these common birds, and then try making some recycled binoculars with your kids (see instructions below).

Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)

a barn swallow on a beamopens IMAGE file

These agile blue and orange birds swoop through the air to catch insects, and even eat while aflight. They build their nests out of mud, which sticks to the eaves of buildings or the sides of bridges or docks.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

a goldfinch perched on a branchopens IMAGE file

The state bird of Iowa is the only finch to molt its feathers twice a year, and the brightening yellow of the male each spring is a welcome mark of approaching warmer months. They are strict vegetarians, only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect.

Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

a hummingbird heading to a feederopens IMAGE file

Hummingbirds are wonderful pollinators, going from flower to flower to gather nectar and pollinating along the way. They make beautiful nests held together with spiderwebs and camouflaged with lichens and dead leaves. The avian marvels beat their wings almost 80 times per second.

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorous)

a bobolink in a fieldopens IMAGE file

The bobolink makes interesting nests in the prairie, right on the ground. It weaves together an open cup of grass and weed stems, lined with finer grasses. Its species name actually comes from its song, a bubbling, tinkling number that is hard to miss!

Eastern bluebird (Siali sialis)

a bluebird perched on a twigopens IMAGE file

Bluebirds actually love bluebird houses. A high percentage of the species arrive in early spring and look for the handmade houses put out for them, and they will stay through late fall before migrating.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

a robin perched in a berry bushopens IMAGE file

The American robin is a common sight because of its diverse habitat in cities, towns, lawns, farmland and forests. Although it does migrate, some robins overwinter as far north as Canada, so they are not an unfamiliar sight even when snow is on the ground. It is an early riser, with its rich carol among the earliest bird songs heard at dawn in spring and summer.

Create-Your-Own Binoculars

a girl looking through toilet paper binocularsopens IMAGE file

While birders often have expensive sets of binoculars, kids love the cheapest ones possible.

Rescue a couple of empty toilet paper tubes from the garbage and let the kids decorate them with stickers and markers.

Staple or hot glue the two tubes together. Then punch holes on the outside of one side of each tube and tie a long strand through the holes so the binoculars can hang around the neck.

Use those binoculars to see what birds you see outside and share your birding lists in the comments below.

Check out other birding opportunities at the Dickinson County Nature Center on our environmental education page, and make sure to check out our other blogs!

(Check out the osprey life cycle on our Videos page.)