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Start with a Book

Ricky Rocket

Books and activities for summer reading and learning from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book: Books and activities for summer reading and summer learning

Bird Buddies

Because they knew my dad was a birder, people in our community would bring us birds who needed help. Once it was a Pied-billed Grebe who mistook a driveway for a body of water and then couldn’t take flight again until my dad took him down to the New River. And for a bit, there was a Barred Owl recovering from an injury out in our shed.

My favorite though was the young Eastern Screech-Owl who lived in our laundry room after he'd gotten a little knocked around when his roosting tree was cut down. We were all captivated by his cautious yet curious looks and missed him when he was rehabilitated by the Division of Natural Resources.

Blanca Gómez’s gorgeous, gentle new book Bird House reminded me of our Screech-Owl visitor. An illustrator based in Madrid, Blanca has created the art for picture books including Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse, City Moon, and One Family, as well as board books Cerca/Close and Lejos/Far by former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

When Blanca was a kid, she spent a lot of time at her grandma’s. There, she ate bread with olive oil for breakfast, ran away from the cat in the corridor, and bumped her head on the corner of the table quite often. So, it makes sense that Bird House, the first book she both wrote and illustrated, talks about her grandma.

We’re so grateful to Blanca for sharing her inspiration for Bird House as well as providing instruction and inspiration for getting crafty and creative! To further kids thinking about how birds and humans are connected, try some additional activities in our Bird Buddies toolkit. One of the recommended Bird Buddies titles is Bird House!

Rachael Walker



August 12, 2021

Explore the Magic of Birds by Blanca Gómez

Children's picture book author and illustrator Blanca Gomez

My book Bird House/Un pájaro en casa is inspired by memories as a child. It’s true that my grandmother loved birds, and it’s also true that, on a snowy day, we both found an injured bird and we took it home and took care of it.

I have very vivid memories of the birds at grandmas’ home. I remember the constant singing, the strong wing beat when my grandma released them from their cages so they could fly around the living room… It was magic!

As I grew up, I sadly forgot about the birds… until recently. When the pandemic silenced my city, and we were all stuck at home, I started listening again to those familiar songs from my bird buddies. Their songs woke me up in the mornings, and made

Best of all, during all this time the birds have been losing their shyness, and now I often can see them flying around my terrace and perching on my plants. Where were they before? Could they be the great-great-grandchildren of my grandma’s bird? I’m feeling the magic again.

two photos of birds visiting an outdoor terrace

In any case, in my book, my grandma makes a birdhouse so the bird can visit anytime. And I’m thinking I should make a birdhouse too for my terrace birds, so they visit me more often. You can make a bird house and explore the magic of birds too!

So, let’s make a birdhouse!

DIY cardboard birdhouse

Making a birdhouse

You will need:

  • Milk or juice carton
  • Paint (for example, acrylic or tempera)
  • Brush
  • Cutter or scissors
  • Stick
  • String (optional)

And now:

  1. Clean the carton with soap and water and let it dry.
  2. Using a pencil or pen, trace a circle in the middle on a side of the carton. You can use the milk carton cap for a small circle or a small cup for a bigger circle. Then use scissors to cut out the circle — ask an adult for help if you need it! This will be the entryway of the birdhouse.
  3. Poke a small hole below the circle using a skewer or something similar. This is where we will fit the stick so the bird can perch on it.
  4. Paint the milk carton with a light base color. You will need to let it dry and repeat a few times to completely cover the surface. Or you can use a hair dryer to speed up the process.
  5. Now it’s time to be creative! Decorate your birdhouse. I used tempera paint of different colors, tape and even a label maker. You can paint it as you want. You can even use stickers. Tip: You can wrap tape around the carton to make different color zones. Paint the sections, let them dry, and finally remove carefully the tape.
  6. Put the stick into the hole.
  7. If you want to hang your birdhouse, you can attach some string to the milk carton top.
  8. Voilà! Our birdhouse is ready!

Now, we can make a little guest if we want to have our birdhouse quickly inhabited!

Making a bird

You will need:

  • Recycled paper or cardboard
  • Clothespin
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • Blu-Tack
bird template and DIY cardboard bird

And now:

  1. Fold the piece of paper or cardboard in half.
  2. Draw a half circle a bit bigger than the clothespin on the top of the folded paper. You can use a cap or anything round. End it with a little beak.
  3. Now cut the shape with scissors.
  4. Paint the beak and the eye of the bird. Then decorate the bird as you want.
  5. For the wings, you can cut a couple more of paper half circles, or you can use feathers, leaves, or other material and glue them onto your bird. I used a dry orchid flower. You can get the same effect using wrinkled silk paper.
  6. Now attach the clothespin to the stick in our birdhouse. The clothespin will be the legs of our bird. Put a bit of Blu-Tack on the back of your bird and carefully attach it to the clothespin.
  7. Voilà! Our birdhouse already has a visitor!
DIY cardboard birdhouse with bird

Bird Buddies!

If you're interested in learning more about birds and birding with kids, try Bird Buddies, our free STEAM toolkit for families and youth programs.

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