A Guide for Beginner Bird-Watchers

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Hearing birdsong on a quiet morning is a lovely way to wake up. Most people recognize a few common species of birds, such as robins, sparrows, and chickadees. If birds intrigue you and you like the outdoors or even just looking at your yard through a window, consider becoming a birder. Birding is a fun activity that’s accessible, relaxing, and educational. Here’s a guide for beginner bird-watchers.

Get a Bird Book or Bird Identification App

Field guides are intended to help you identify the birds you see. Guides for common backyard birds or for all the birds on your continent can teach you a lot about the subtle differences in markings, calls, and colors that various species display.

You can also download different bird identification apps to make identifying birds as simple as a check of your phone. The Cornell Ornithology Lab is a recognized resource for all things bird, and their app, called Merlin, will help you identify your avian friends.

Wake Up Early

Many birds are active early in the morning, when they’re eager for breakfast. Putting up a bird feeder in your backyard attracts a variety of species and can provide hours of birdwatching pleasure. Adding a birdbath to provide water could increase the number of feathered visitors in your yard. If you’re not a morning person, that’s okay: some birds, such as owls, are active at night, and many others like the cool of evening.

Widen Your Circle

When you’ve gotten to know most of the birds in your own yard, it’s time to venture beyond your property line. Visit a local forest preserve with your guide or your app in hand and find a good spot that offers a variety of habitats. Some birds like to perch on tall grasses, while others prefer trees or shrubs. Some species like to feed on the ground. Pick a place where two different types of features meet, such as a pond surrounded by grasses and shrubs or a stand of trees next to a meadow.

Get the Proper Gear

If you’re a beginning bird-watcher, it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on fancy binoculars. Any type that’s reasonably lightweight so that you can walk around comfortably with it will do. Once you have more experience and you’re hooked on birding, you can invest in a quality pair.

There’s no dress code to bird watching other than to wear inconspicuous colors (not white!). Birding is a year-round activity, so dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes for when you want to walk from one location to another.

Take a notebook to jot down the names of birds you identify and any questions about what you see when you’re out and about that you want to research.

With patience and the ability to remain still and to enjoy your natural surroundings, you’ll build your list of birds you can identify by appearance and song. Eventually, you can join your local birding club and venture out with friends to spy migrating species or rare visitors.

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