How to Start Birdwatching

What is birding?

Simply put, birding (or birdwatching) is the act of enjoying wild birds. If you’ve ever watched a bird at a backyard feeder, photographed a bird in a beautiful setting, or stopped to listen to a bird singing along your favorite trail, then you are already a birder! Birding is enjoyed by many people in many ways around the world.

What do I need to get started?

You really don’t need much equipment to get started in birding. You can use binoculars or a spotting scope to see birds better at a distance. A good field guide to birds of your region will help you identify the species that you encounter. Binoculars and a field guide make finding and identifying birds a little easier, but even without them, you can enjoy the birds around you.

How do I identify a bird?

You don’t need to identify every bird you see or hear, but figuring out the names of the birds you find can be a big part of the fun. It can also make it easier to learn more about the species, such as migration patterns and conservation needs, by looking the bird up in a book or online once you’ve identified it.

 

When you encounter an unfamiliar bird, ask yourself a few questions. What is the general size and shape of the bird? (For example, is it a small, sparrow-like perching bird or a medium-sized duck?) What are the main colors and markings? (Is it bright yellow with black wings or brown with a spotted breast?) What is the bird doing? (Is it climbing down a tree trunk or soaring overhead?) And in what type of habitat is the bird? (Is it in an open grassland or in the middle of a forest?) Birds are incredibly diverse, with thousands of species across the globe, and the answers to these types of questions can really clue you in to what type of bird you have found. It is also helpful to remember that birding is more than just watching: Many birds produce unique songs and calls, and paying attention to these sounds will help you find and identify more birds.

 

A good field guide, which can either be a book or a smartphone app, will really help you know what birds to expect in your area and how to identify them. Visit your local bookstore or library, ask a teacher, or search online to find a field guide to birds of your region.

How do I connect with other birders?

Birding is a fun activity to do on your own but is even better when shared with others. Join a bird walk at a park or refuge, connect with a local Audubon Society chapter, visit a World Migratory Bird Day event, or find and follow social media pages and groups to meet other birders, discover new places to explore, and learn more about the birds in your region. Connecting with the birding community is one of the best things about being a birder!

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