The book offers a step-by-step introduction to birding—showing beginners where to find and observe birds, how to identify different species and how to attract birds to their own yards. Children will also learn what to bring on their birding adventures, discover new birding vocabulary and find important information on how to observe birds without interfering with their day-to-day survival. Accompanying the text is over 300 beautiful photos—all of which, remarkably, were taken by Lorenzo when he was between the ages of 9 and 12 years old. The skills he has crafted at such an early age are an inspiration to wildlife observers young and old.
At 144 pages and packed with information, the text is appropriate for older children who are comfortable reading chapter books and advanced nonfiction texts, as well as parents of younger children who are looking for helpful tips on getting started with family birding. And, while the text is too advanced for young children, my three-year-old does enjoy flipping through the photo-filled pages, which are much bigger and easier to browse than traditional field guides written for adults. You can find A Kid's Guide to Birding at bookstores and at KidsBirding.com. To learn more about the author, read on.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lorenzo Rohani to learn more about his passion for birding. Here he shares his thoughts—and several of his wonderful photos!
LA Outdoor Family: You became interested in birding when you were four years old. Do you remember what first sparked your interest in birds?
Lorenzo Rohani: It all started when we tried to identify a Black Scoter. My dad got me a bird field guide from the library and, once I had that, I wanted to identify other birds. Shortly after that I got to attend the Puget Sound Bird Fest, which happens near where I live. That was probably the real start for me. I got to make a bird feeder and dissect an owl pellet and see raptors. It was cool. I've been going every year since I was five, and this year I was invited to give a presentation and guide a birding walk through Yost Park.
LR: I started documenting all the birds that came to our backyard, and in about a year I had a list of 42 species. Then my dad and I started traveling around to all sorts of places looking for different species of birds. Eventually I had a very large collection of bird photographs, including some that showed some interesting bird behavior. So my dad thought I should make a book.
LAOF: In addition to the pages and pages of information you provide to help children and their families get started with birding, your book is also packed with some really awesome photos. Can you describe how photography has been an important part of your birding experience?
LR: Wildlife and bird photography is really hard. It makes you pay careful attention to everything around you—the lighting, the habitat, the bird's behavior. You have to be very patient. For my book, I was mostly looking for images that gave a clear view of what the bird looks like in its own habitat so that readers could identify it when they see it. But I also try to take images that show birds doing what they do—what they like to eat, that sort of thing.
LR: Apart from birding in my backyard, I rely on my dad to get me where I need to be to find birds. We have a lot of good birding locations nearby, such as the Edmonds Marsh, the Puget Sound waterfront and Yost Park. But beyond these I need a ride and my dad is good about getting me to wherever there are birds. So I do most of my birding with my dad, although I recently went by myself to a birding summer camp in Colorado. This was made possible by the American Birding Association and you can see some photos of our group on their blog.
LR: Birds do amazing things, and I've gotten to see a lot of birds up close, such as hummingbirds and Red-tailed Hawks. I've even had Sandhill Cranes eating out of my hand. I've seen hawks battling in midair. I've seen Juncos feeding Cowbirds. But there are lots of things I haven't yet seen. I've read that Scrub Jays hold funerals, that Cactus Wrens build stone walkways, that Shrikes impale their prey on thorns or barbwire and that New Caledonian Crows make and use tools. So there are some amazing things that I've yet to actually see for myself, but I hope to get a chance.
LR: I've heard that New Zealand is a really good place to bird. I would, of course, like to go to the Amazon, to Africa, and to the Galapagos Islands. This summer I got to go to England, and I photographed Red Kites, which is a type of hawk.
LAOF: Although you live in the Pacific Northwest, birding has brought you to southern California on several occasions. Do you have any favorite birding spots here that you’d recommend to our readers?
LR: I've found good birding spots on the California beaches around Los Angeles, including Santa Monica and Venice Beach, and at the Malibu Lagoon. The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is good. But probably the best place was the Palm Springs Indian Canyons. There are still many places in California that I haven't been that I hope to visit in the future, such as the Salton Sea and Death Valley.
LR: There are lots of birds I really want to see that I haven't seen yet or in some cases I've seen but haven't been able to get a good photo of them. I really want to get a good photo of a White-tailed Kite, a Chukar, a White-faced Ibis and a Greater Sage Grouse. Also, I haven't seen an Acorn Woodpecker or the California Condor. So there is still lots to see.
LAOF: Many people believe that kids your age are more interested in TV and video games than getting outside and experiencing nature. What do your friends say when you talk to them about birding?
LR: I play select soccer and I also play a lot of video games, so I tend to talk about other things with my friends. But my friends know that I go birding. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of mountains, forests and parks, so a lot of kids are into camping and hiking or other outdoor activities, so I think it is okay that I like wildlife photography.
LAOF: You’ve learned a lot about birds while observing, researching and photographing them. Has birding taught you anything about yourself?
LR: Birding has taught me that you can be yourself, that picking a hobby that interests you can bring on opportunities to fun stuff and help you learn things that you can always use in life.
LAOF: Do you have any idea what kind of job or career you’d like to have as an adult, and do you think it will somehow involve birds?
LR: I'm not sure what kind of career I will pick. That seems like a long time away, but I think I would like to go to Cornell University.
LAOF: Do you have any advice for parents who are interested in taking their children birding?
LR: Birding can be an adventure, and the more you make it into an adventure the more fun it will be. Make it special. Go really early in the morning so you can still arrive early when birds are most active. Pack a great snack and lunch for the trip. Start off looking for a species that you haven't seen but are likely to find. It is very satisfying to leave early in the morning, drive or hike out to a remote place, and then finally discover the bird you were hoping to see. The destination doesn't have to be far, but go early. Take a field guide to look up what you see, because you are likely to see other birds too. Be sure to bring along good binoculars (you can find some tips for selecting the best level birding binoculars in my book), and keep an eye out for other birders who can give you good tips. Birders are usually easy to find because they usually have good optics, such as large spotting scopes and binoculars. Follow your local online birding news (in my area I use Tweeters, but try the American Birding Association and eBird.com) to discover what birds are around. Birder postings can help you plan your own birding trip.