Ornithologist In Training
He's only 9, but he knows more about birds than many adults.
By Susan Hughes, Pottstown, Pennsylvania
We've always been a nature-oriented family, but I never dreamed it would lead to this. At a very young age, my son,
Eric, developed this uncanny ability to identify birds and remember facts and figures about them.
This incredible interest began when he was just 3 and took a liking to ducks. At the time, one of his favorite activities was to page through our little Golden Books guide on birds. The ducks fascinated him, and this love soon grew to include all birds.
Nowadays, Eric's love for birds hasn't slowed one bit. Our home is on a 2-acre lot dotted with bird gardens, roughly 15 birdhouses and 14 feeders. Eric loves spending time with his pet parakeet, "Birde," and trying to lure our backyard birds to feed from his hand.
Eric recently designed a multi-platform feeder that he dubbed the Quintuple 5000. He sketched a drawing to include special compartments for berries, seed, scraps, insects and water. Then he and his dad made it from scratch.
As of the first of the year, Eric had more than 120 birds on his life list. We expect many more to come, though, since a portion of every vacation we take is devoted to bird-watching.
Eric has delighted many with his ability to ID birds. My favorite experience occurred while we were on a trip to Cape May, New Jersey when Eric was just 5 years old. While browsing through our favorite bird store there, one of the owners asked Eric to identify a bird, not common to the area, in a small painting.
Eric first determined it was a warbler, which in itself shocked the man. But then Eric went on to specify that it was actually a Blackurnian warbler. We were all amazed!
I think it's safe to say that Eric's interest in birds is going to stick. He's already decided that he wants to go to Cornell University for their well-respected ornithology program. And until then, Eric will continue feeding the birds, designing feeders and adding species to his list.
Q&A with Eric
What's your favorite bird? It's a cock-of-the-rock. I haven't seen one in person, but this mountainous bird has an amazing orange-red tuft and looks kind of like a parakeet.
What's a bird that you haven't seen but would like to? I would like to see the bee hummingbird because it's the smallest bird in the world.
What's your favorite food to feed birds? My dad and I make this great suet. Take 1 cup each of crunchy peanut butter, lard, flour and birdseed. Then mix it with 2 cups each of quick-cooking oats and cornmeal. Add dried fruit, blueberries or whatever else you have on hand. The birds will love it!
What's your favorite birding activity? In the summer, I like to sit outside and watch for birds through my binoculars at our bird gardens.
If you could watch birds anywhere in the world, where would you go? I would go to South America or a rain forest. I like tropical birds.
Find Eric's plans for the Quintuple 5000 and his top plant recommendations for birds on our subscriber-only Plus section.