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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Red Birds-Robin, Cardinal, and House Finch

Bird Series on the Handbook of Nature Study

This series of Outdoor Hour Challenges is going to help you study birds, their habits and their unique features. Learning to really see the parts of the bird in order to not only identify it but to see how each bird fits into the overall world of animals. I have decided to emphasis the most common backyard birds in this series of challenges.

Using the Peterson Field Guides For Young Naturalists: Backyard Birds, I am organizing the challenges to follow this book’s sequence and organization. This will make it more manageable when we go over to the Handbook of Nature Study. If you do not have the Backyard Birds book, you can certainly still complete the challenges using only the Handbook of Nature Study. I am also including the Peterson Field Guides to Birds in the challenges this time for those families that are ready for a “real” field guide. As the weeks go by, we will be using the field guide to help us learn to identify birds in our own backyard. Again, you can complete the challenge without the field guide and just stick to the Handbook of Nature Study if you wish to. Please note that the HNS will not serve as a field guide to identifying birds. (Links to all books are at the bottom of this post.)

One bird at a time….one week at a time….building a lifetime of bird knowledge.

I realize that many times the bird discussed in the challenge may not be available for observation in your particular of the world. This is going to be true for the vast majority of us. I am only aware that there are thirteen of the thirty or so birds listed that we will actually be able to observe in person. Knowing this, try to look at the study of birds you don’t have locally as a way to broaden your general knowledge of birds and to glean ways to observe any bird that you will encounter over the next ten to twelve weeks. Do not skip the challenge but make sure to complete the Outdoor Hour Activity step each week regardless of the bird we are focusing on at that particular time. (see additional note below)

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Birds #1
Robin, Cardinal, and House Finch

Inside preparation work:
1. Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages 27-28 to get a general overview of bird study using this book. In addition, read pages 43-44 for some ways to attract birds to your yard. I highly recommend hanging a feeder of some sort and providing water as well.

2.Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 57-62 about the robin. There is so much information about the robin on these pages that it is a little overwhelming. I would read the information and mark any ideas or facts that you are interested in sharing with your child.

3. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 127-130 about the cardinal grosbeak.

4. Backyard Birds: Read aloud with your child the introductory pages and the section on red birds: the robin, the cardinal, and the house finch. Take note of each bird’s field marks for future reference. Notice the difference between the female and male birds for each kind of bird.

5. Peterson Field Guide: Read the introductory pages 17-22(W) or 23-30(E). Look up in the index the robin, the cardinal, and the house finch. Observe the illustrations carefully and read the narrative descriptions and explanations.

Please Note: (W)=Western Birds and (E) Eastern Birds
(See links above for particular books used. Note these are affiliate links.)

Outdoor Hour Time
On your appointed day, take your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time to enjoy your own backyard. Since this series of challenges is about birds, be aware of any bird subjects that come your way. This could include feathers, nests, bird tracks, or the sounds of bird calls.

You could also use your outdoor time to hang a bird feeder and talk about what kinds of birds you hope to attract. You could talk about the different kinds of seeds. The more you include your children in the process of setting up the bird feeder, the more excited and invested they will be to watch for birds to visit.

Your goal this week is to spend the time outdoors with your children and perhaps observe a bird. What particular aspect of the bird are you observing this week? How about the color, size, and shape of the beak? This should get you started in your bird study.

Follow Up Activity
For your follow up activity you can learn more about the particular bird that you observed. If you know what kind of bird it is, look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study for more information. You can also use the Peterson Field Guide or an internet resource such as or Cornell’s bird website at

The above websites also can help you identify an unknown bird. We will be learning in the upcoming challenges how to use a field guide to identify birds so don’t worry if you don’t find an exact identification for your bird.

The most important part of this challenge is getting outdoors with your children and beginning a search for birds. If you have a nearby park, you can try visiting there during your week to see if there any different birds for observation. Many parks have ducks and geese that make excellent subjects for bird study.

Hopefully during your outdoor time you found something to investigate further. Questions are always a great way to extend your nature study to other days of your week.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

This red bird challenge is from the Learning About Birds ebook here on the Handbook of Nature Study. It is found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships for you to download and use with your family. If you would like to gain access to this ebook, you can purchase a membership now and have instant access.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Use the discount code BIRDLOVER5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership.

15 thoughts on “Outdoor Hour Challenge: Red Birds-Robin, Cardinal, and House Finch

  1. Sounds good! I’m waiting for the Burgess Bird Book to come in and we’re going to use that along with the Handbook of Nature Study.

    Our birds have been out for a couple of weeks now. We do need to get outside and refill our feeders.

    I like the changes you’ve made to the challenges. 🙂 You’ve helped empower me to do some things on my own, too. Thank you!

    Also, I highly recommend those bird notebooking pages! We have them and they are excellent! I look forward to using more of them this spring!

  2. Yeah, birds!! We’ve had some beautiful ones lately and are making feeders for them. Can’t wait to get this one started!

  3. Barb, I am really looking forward to this and think you are just SO amazing. My daughter has been out this week observing and drawing birds she’s seen. This will fit in perfectly.

  4. Love the background on your blog! Beautiful and so appropiate.

  5. I love your Outdoor Hour Nature study and I’m very excited about the bird study. Thanks so much for taking the time to put it all together and share it!

  6. Thanks so much for doing this challenge! We have been studying birds for the last month and this will be a great addition to our unit study.

  7. I was so excited to see the backyard bird focus. It felt so attainable, especially since we’ve already seen 2 of the 3 birds from the first Challenge in our Canadian backyard this spring!

    We went out on Monday and did the Challenge with more success than I’d anticipated.

    Thank you so much for all the effort you put into these. I tell everyone at the 3 homeschooling groups I help lead about your blog as a wonderful resource for nature study.

    Blessings to you in abundance, Barb.


  8. I love the new format of the challenges! I really like seeing the 3 different steps.

    We have a big picture window in our living room and have seen so many birds just lately so I’m excited to get started with the bird challenges this spring. The boys are noticing the different birds and we’ve seen a few I don’t recognize so we’ve got our field guides ready to go! Thanks for all you do. 🙂

  9. We have lots of resources to study birds in addition to the HBS. Thank you for starting us on birds!

  10. We’re excited to participate! Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas with all of us.

  11. Hey! Thanks Barb for helping me with Mr. Linky. Looking forward to posting more of our bird studies – we just put up a feeder and it’s already buzzin’ with bird activity. And of course, a squirrel.

  12. We have had herons, a woodpecker, blue jays, doves, and ‘cat’ birds, and grackles in our backyard.
    I’ve not seen the ones that you have listed.

  13. I’m so excited to work on birds. I’m off to get the bird notebooking pages too! And I’m going to get an RSS feed to come to my email so I won’t forget about these challenges like I do so often. Birds is my favorite, so I don’t want to miss out. Or I mean I don’t want the kids too miss out. Ahem, blunder there.

  14. This was such a delightful challenge. I was surprised by the number of birds we saw that had red on them this afternoon – robins, red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinal, and even a pileated woodpecker. I couldn’t have asked for a better variety of birds than we saw today!

  15. Funny thing, I spent quite a long time yesterday photographing birds in the lake. There seems to be SO many right now. I think they are getting ready for spring love. 😉 Februrary will be good month!

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