Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birding 101: Sketching Birds

Once the boys learned the basics, mastered binocular usage, and found their friend, the camera, they caught the birding bug BIG TIME!

Bird watching was something we did wherever we went...while eating a picnic lunch, while waiting in line at the drive-thru, even while riding in the car!

And birds started showing up all around my house in the form of art work!  Around here, getting a sketch of a ruby-throated hummingbird means you are really loved!!

It was not long until our classroom turned into a bird-printing studio, and there is just so much room on the fridge for these kinds of pictures.  And ALL of the pictures had to be displayed as not to hurt any one's feelings (or as the boys pointed out, the birds' feelings were fragile, too).

So I bought each boy a spiral art journal and kept them on a desk under the classroom window.  I had the desk stocked with colored pencils, a sharpener, regular no. 2 pencils, and erasers.  From this spot they could easily see our feeders and keep a log of many of the birds that visited us each day.

They drew pictures of which birds they identified
in the time they watched
and labeled each bird.
I also had them write a short sentence
about each scene.
Sometimes they would notice other birds
at places other than the feeder.
Their journal page had to depict
where the birds were seen.
Sometimes they saw birds in trees.
Notice they noted details like seeing two nests.

Other times birds would show up at interesting locations
like on my car.
This particular female cardinal
hovered around my car's side mirrors
all day!
We called her our pet bird!!
Carolina wrens nested behind our shed,
and we would see them hopping
around it all day.
In this entry, Wilbur drew a black vulture,
but he also wrote a list of the other birds
he saw that day.
He also included "honk, honk"
because he heard a Canada Goose
but did not see it.
On this page,
Orville did a good job sketching
the Downy's behavior.
He also included the date
of his entry.
On some pages of their journals,
the boys made notes of
mnemonics they used to memorize
birds songs.
Orville shares three of his favorite birds and their mnemonics
on this page.
The Hooded Warbler says, "I've a little, pretty hood."
The Killdeer says, "Hot Pockets."
The Red-winged Black Bird says, "Oh my red wing!"
Wilbur wants everyone to know
that the Indigo Bunting says,
"I am Mommy's favorite bird,
yes, I am!"
I will write more about mnemonics
in a future post.

We also included other "special" pages...

...like graphs of how many of each bird
were seen over a set period of time.
and instructional pages
like the one pictured above that Wilbur drew
to show the differences between
an American Crow and a Raven.
It seemed that drawing birds increased the boys love
for the great outdoors and for their feathered friends.
Their abilities as artists grew, too.

Two years later,
Wilbur painted this Ruby-throated Hummingbird
and won 4th place in a Crayola contest!
They loved these assignments, too!
Don't just take my word on that.
You can read what Orville has to say about sketching birds here
and what Wilbur thinks here!

Want to get started
Drawing with Your Children-
Nature Style?
Join B4L's very own Heather
for a weekly meme!

bird for button

Barb, the Harmony Art Mom, has compiled a great set of lesson plans to be used with the book Drawing with Children.  This book follows a teaching structure very similar to the one I used with my boys when completing the journals pictured in this post.  I highly recommend it to you!  Her plans will tie in with Heather's meme, too, so your children will have a format for sharing their work.  I hope you will join the sketching and nature fun!

Join me next time when I will tweet about the mnemonics I mentioned earlier in this post!

Until we tweet again...


  1. Wow! The boys' pictures are amazing! I hope you have the hummingbird picture framed somewhere.

    I'm planning on participating in the Drawing with Children - Nature Style, and just printed out the first lesson. I know Grace will love it. Ryne will likely incorporate his bird drawing into some elaborate Star Wars scene, but he'll still love it. ; )

  2. Thanks. Yes, I have it in the kitchen and will treasure it for as long as I live.

    I look forward to seeing their drawings. My boys call themselves Jedi Birders and would love to join Ryne in creating a birdie Star Wars world. I can see it now... Darth Wader and Luke Skylark! LOL!

  3. Kellie- We will be so glad to have you! Dawn is going to do DWCNS too. I have a child sick with the stomach flu this AM, so I have been up practicing drawing birds, myself.

  4. Oh, I forgot to say this is ABSOLUTELY my FAVORITE Birding 101 post. When all my kids are well, I hope to inspire them:)


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