Hosting a bird watching event in your own backyard is a great experience to share with friends and family. It’s a terrific venue for educating both kids and adults about backyard birds. It provides a fantastic setting for photo opportunities and nature videos. And, it’s a perfect excuse for some spring cleaning in the yard and bird habitat.
The good news is, any time of year is just fine for such an event, weather permitting. However, bird lovers tend to be more active in February, which is National Wild Bird Feeding Month and the month of The Great Backyard Bird Count. However, if you can’t wait until next February to host your event, then choose an earlier date at your convenience.
And since bird watching is a low-key activity, hosting an event like this can be equally low-key. In fact, here are some suggestions to help make your event manageable and memorable!
CHOOSE A DAY: Choose a day that works for you and your guests, and during a season when the weather is comfortable enough to be outside. If the weather does not cooperate, you can bring your party indoors, but make sure there is plenty of room near the windows to continue the bird watching.
HAVE FUN WITH THE THEME: Send printed or electronic invitations with a bird motif and purchase bird themed napkins and tablecloths. Paper and plastic helps simplify clean up, and are also available in various bird motifs. A recording of bird songs would add ambiance indoors where the food is.
PREPARE YOUR PARADISE: Start feeding the birds a few weeks prior to make sure they know where to find the food on the day of your event. Clean and refill bird feeders a few days before the event and hang chalkboard markers around your yard to identify the feeding stations based on the birds your feeders and food will attract. Make sure bird feeders are placed away from high traffic areas to avoid showering your guests with bird droppings. And, if possible, scatter seating at different locations in your backyard to accommodate different viewing angles and observation points.
PREPARE YOUR FOOD: Food and beverages for the birds are a MUST, but don’t forget to feed and water your guests as well. Food should be easy to nibble and not a distraction to the bird watching activity. Finger food is a great choice, and providing chicken wings at a bird watching event is always a great conversation starter! However, don’t fire up the grill for your party as the smoke will discourage the birds you’re trying to attract. Keep it simple with coffee cake, pound cake, cookies, coffee and tea, lemonade, and iced tea. Or add a touch of elegance with finger sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres. And if you like cooking for your guests, you might also enjoy cooking for the birds!
PREPARE YOUR GUESTS: Communicate to your guests that bird watching is a low-key, low-stress activity, and invite them to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the outdoors. You might consider providing bug repellent and sunblock, as needed. And, invite your guests to bring cameras and binoculars.
PREPARE YOUR EXPERIENCE: Provide a guest book for your guests so you’ll have their contact information to invite them again next year. Also, inexpensive bird journals make appropriate party favors your guests can use right away. And, make sure to have a few field guides on hand to help your guests identify the birds. Check your weather the day before the event to make sure there’s no rain in the forecast. If you have unexpected rain during your party, be sure to have a backup plan. You could have a poetry reading about birds from your favorite poets, or facilitate bird crafts indoors until the rain subsides. A window birdwatching kit might also come in handy.
Take pictures during your event for sharing on Facebook and Pinterest afterward, and mark your calendar to start planning your next event again in a few months. Like birds, you might even attract the same birders!
No matter where you live, you can put bird food outside your door, and some fine feathered-friend will show its appreciation and make an appearance. That’s all it takes. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop. By providing food, water, cover and a place for birds to raise their young you not only help wildlife, but you also qualify to become an official Certified Wildlife Habitat®.