People visit Living History Farms to talk with our museum guides, see the historic buildings and farm animals, and to help with our hands-on activities. Maybe you have come out to help churn butter or pump water or milk a cow? What is your favorite job to help with at the farm?
Many people also come to the museum just to be outside! Fall in Iowa is a great time to be outside. The air is cooler. The leaves start to turn colors and crunch under your feet. Our museum has a trail to walk on between our farms. Along this trail, you can see prairie grass, wildflowers and trees, a creek and a pond. There are benches along the trail and it’s a great place to sit and hang out outside! And it is a great place to watch for wild birds and animals.
Do you like to watch wild birds? Scientists who study birds are called ornithologists. People who like to watch birds are sometimes called “birders.” Birders like to see how many different kinds of birds they see when they go out. They even keep lists of the birds, where they see them and what the birds were doing.
The next time you come to the Farms, walk slow along the trail and look for birds. You can even keep your own list by drawing pictures of the birds you see or writing down what they were doing. Even if you don’t know what species (that’s the name of that type of bird), there are lots of things to notice about them. What colors are the birds? What sound are they making? Where are they—on the ground, in a tree, on swimming in the pond? Were they eating something? If you want, you can bring a pair of binoculars to see the birds better, but just looking hard with your eyes will show you a lot!
Here are some of the birds you might see on a visit to Living History Farms! As you walk along our trails, keep your eyes open and look carefully through the trees and along the ground. You might see very colorful birds in the trees. Bright reds, blues, yellows and oranges are easy to spot.
Maybe you will see birds like the Eastern Bluebird, or the Goldfinch. These are both small birds that love to sing. The Goldfinches like the seeds of many of the flowers which grow in our prairie grass area.
You might also see a Blue Jay or a Cardinal. These birds are a little bigger but still have bright colors. The Cardinals also like to sing!
If you are very lucky, you might even see an Oriole. We don’t see these birds very often, but are always excited when we do!
Now, if you want a challenge, look for the birds that have just little bits of bright colors, or that are brown and black and white. Some of our favorites are the gray catbirds.
You might hear the catbird before you see him. He calls to other birds with a scratchy mewing sound.
Crawling along the trees, sometimes even upside down, you might see a nuthatch.
In spring and fall, the male nuthatches chatter at each other so listen when you see them!
The woods at Living History Farms are also filled with wood-peckers.
There are the smaller Downy Woodpeckers, but we also have Red-bellied Woodpeckers too. You can usually hear these birds too—by the hammering sound they make on trees!
In the more open areas along the trail, you might see birds that like to soar or fly in the breeze. Look up and you might see a turkey vulture. Vultures eat dead animals and like to fly high in the sky on warm winds called thermals.
You will see them fly in slow circles. Sometimes you may also see hawks at the farm. We see both Red tailed Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks. The farmers keep an eye out for these birds in the spring—they will chase our young chickens.
On a cool morning visit, you might see pheasants or wild turkeys. These birds are shy and you will probably only see them in the distance–like this turkey we were able to photograph here last fall!
In the mornings, you may even see a heron on our farm pond! And especially in the fall, you can see all sorts of ducks and Canadian Geese on the farm pond near the exhibit center.
What is your favorite bird? Do you like small birds that sing or bigger birds that honk? Start your own bird list for the birds you see at home and at the park, and hopefully on a visit to Living History Farms!
Caregivers: Birding is a great way to get your kids outside! Start with the birds in your back yard and the birds along our museum trail. Don’t worry about knowing the name of every bird you see. Focus on just noticing what birds are doing. What sounds are they making? What colors and sizes do the kids see? Birding can be simple—a walk along the trail using just your eyes to look for things. Or you can bring a notebook and pencils to draw/write down what you see and a pair of kids’ or adult binoculars to look for birds. If your kids are bringing new binoculars to watch birds, make sure they practice using them a bit so they aren’t frustrated with the tools during their tour. Also, let them explore whatever they notice during their birding walk—even if the ground squirrels seem to be more interesting than the birds. Teaching kids to love the outdoors keeps them active and involved in the world around them! Remember these birds are wild, so children should not try to catch, feed, or chase them.