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Best Guide to Starting Bird Watching

August 21, 2021

If you’re looking for a way to spend your time that is peaceful and enjoyable, where you’re learning interesting facts along the way, have we got the hobby for you - bird watching. Yes, bird watching! It doesn’t matter your age, race, or socioeconomic standing - bird watching is growing in popularity. Birds are intelligent, beautiful, vocal, and busy.     

Related: How to Start Birding [Beginner’s Guide and Tips]

What is the point of bird watching?

So why watch birds? Not only are they extraordinary creatures, but here are three great reasons to consider bird watching as a hobby.

Bird Watching is a Healthy Pastime

For the most part, this hobby is peaceful and good for your mental, emotional, and physical health. Even if you choose to passively watch them as they enter your view, bird watching offers extended times of quiet to think and process the issues of your life. It can also be a more than adequate distraction if that’s what you need. In either event, bird watching will bring calm into your days, which is good for your mental and emotional health. 

Walking, Hiking, and Running

You may not want to passively watch whatever birds come into your view but prefer to go out and find the particular birds you want to watch. This means you’re getting out there walking, hiking, and possibly spending time sitting or standing in less than comfortable settings. As most of us live stationary lifestyles, this hobby gets you out of the house and is physical in an enjoyable way.  

An Intellectual Workout

Birds are intelligent animals, and watching them and learning why they engage in their behaviors will give your brain a regular workout. There is so much information to learn about birds and their activities that you’ll find yourself doing lots of research. Your brain will make many new neural connections, and you’ll feel inspired to learn even more. Before you know it, you’ll become a walking encyclopedia on all things bird-related. You’ll wow your friends and family! 

Exercise Your Senses

Bird watching means you will have to exercise your senses. It isn’t just about what you can see, but what you can hear. The environment around bird watching is an opportunity to hone your peripheral vision, as well as seeing what’s right in front of you. You’ll become an expert at seeing small movements out of the corner of your eyes and observing activity that might be obscure. If you hadn’t known how to sit still and focus before, you’ll learn to now.

Socially Healthy

Although it seems as though bird watching is a solitary pastime, it can also be social. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 43 million Americans are involved in bird watching near and away from their homes. If you become serious about your new hobby, you may join bird watching organizations where you can receive regular information about bird conservation, free bird walks, festivals, and other events. It’s fantastic to meet up with people who enjoy the same things as you do. 

Related: How to Educate and Promote Environmental Awareness in 2021

Get Connected to Nature

Our lifestyles separate us from nature, and we’re experiencing more stress, disconnection, and anxiety. Bird watching can be a remedy for this. There are about 10,000 species of bird worldwide and about 1,107 species in the United States. When you consider the size, shapes, plumages, colors, behaviors, and vocals, birds are exciting and attractive to study. 

When you begin bird watching, it’ll draw you to all of nature in a broader sense. Birds are social creatures, and if you decide to follow them, you’ll find yourself observing and learning about other animals in nature, as well as ecosystems and the geography of the area. 

Spending time outdoors will give you a greater appreciation of the beauty and importance of nature, making you want to spend even more time outside. Any fear or concerns you may have had around being in the ‘wild,’ you’ll quickly lose as your worries are replaced by sound knowledge. 

If you choose to travel to visit birds in different areas away from home, you will find yourself in beautiful new places. So you don’t just experience the new species of birds, but you can get to see lush forests, desert areas, or even icy cold. You’ll also see many other species of animals and get to watch and be intrigued by their unique behaviors. You’ll undoubtedly fall in love with our wonderful planet.

You’ll Make Great Friends

We touched on this above, but bird watching is a great way to make friends. Bird watchers love sharing the information and talking about all the species they’ve seen and all they know about them. Experienced bird watchers are especially eager to share their knowledge with newer bird watchers. So, among the people you meet, make friends with both other newbies like yourself and veteran bird watchers. 

No matter where you live, you’re likely to find many bird watching groups and organizations like the Audubon Society in your area, where you can meet and socialize with other bird watchers. Also, there are apps for your smartphone or computer where you can meet and communicate with fellow bird watchers from around the world. With the worldwide web, you can even meet up with others virtually. 

Here are three great festivals for bird watchers:

Think of the bonds that may be forged over a weekend or week on a guided group bird watching tour. 

Other ways to make friends with new bird watchers are online forums, Facebook Groups, or other websites and social media

What is Bird Watching Called?

Bird watching is also known by a couple of other names like birding, or a bird watcher may be called a twitcher. Most bird watchers are amateurs, while one who studies birds as a profession is called an ornithologist.   

Do you love birds? We believe in educating and connecting people with birds. Contact BirdBot for more information.   

Bird Watching Code of Ethics

Before you become a bird watcher, you may want to look at the Code of Ethics of bird watching as set out by the American Birding Association. 

Promote and Respect Birds and their Environment. This promotion and respect should be expressed in three main ways:

  • Do not stress birds or put them in danger. When observing nests, colonies, feeding sites, roosts, etc., please be cautious. Limit the use of audio recordings to attract birds that may be endangered or threatened. Exercise care and restrain when recording, watching, and photographing birds. 
  • Be a supporter of bird conservation and their habitats. Promote as many bird-friendly practices as you can. Keep cats and other threats to bird safety away from them, provide safe feeding stations, and grow native plants and foliage. 
  • Do not disturb bird habitats.  

Promote and show respect to the bird watching community and each member. This means that you will:

  • Follow the code of ethics and lead other bird watchers by example. Always report on your bird watching, honestly.
  • Respect other bird watchers, as well as people who are enjoying outdoor activities. Be a friend and share your knowledge and experience with other bird watchers, especially the newbies.
  • Share your bird observations freely and honestly for the benefit of everyone interested. This, only as long as it does not violate any of the other sections of this code of ethics.  
  • If you see unethical bird watching behavior, approach the situation respectfully and sensitively. The offenders may not realize their behavior is violating the well-being of the birds or other bird watchers. Try to resolve any problems positively, demonstrating for others how to conduct themselves. 
  • Promote this Code of Ethics to others so group bird watching situations may be positive experiences for everyone involved.   

Promote and respect the law and the rights of others. This portion of the code means:

  • Private property is just that, private. Without the permission of the landowner, no bird watcher should trespass on private property. And respect the occupants and users of living areas when bird watching.
  • Know the laws, rules, and regulations concerning the area of your bird watching with regard to bird feeding, habitats, and the use of audio lures. Govern yourself accordingly to maintain the protection and well-being of the wildlife in the area.

Related: Bird Behavior: Identification Through Observation

A Guide to Beginning Bird Watching

As we’ve already established, bird watching is a beneficial hobby that you may be as casual or become as serious about it as you would like.   

Here are just a few of the benefits of bird watching:

  • Healthy
  • Peaceful
  • Intellectually stimulating
  • Social
  • Fun
  • Accessible
  • Physical (if you want it to be)
  • Solitude (if that’s what you want)

According to Audubon New York, here’s how to get started bird watching: 

Get Outdoors

Step outside or just find a great view through a window where you can see the birds in your area. Consider setting up a bird feeding station to draw a variety of birds to your backyard. Fill the feeders with something like black oil sunflower seeds to appeal to a wide variety of birds, along with some millet and safflower to deter squirrels. And don’t forget a fountain or a shallow birdbath where birds can socialize while you watch.

Find a Guide

You would have come to know so many species of birds just as a part of observing outdoors. If you get a guide, you’ll learn the proper names of those you’re familiar with and get to know many new species. A guide can turn your looking and listening into an exciting and interesting time of discovery. One comprehensive guide identifying over 1,000 species is the National Geographic’s Complete Birds of North America or Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards. If you don’t want a hard copy book or cards, you can use apps for your smartphone, like Merlin from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.    

Check Out Different Locations

While you may see some interesting birds in your immediate area, visiting other locations can be very rewarding. Varying species prefer different conditions and climates. If traveling long distances is out of the question, look for wooded areas or parks near you. 

Invest in a Good Pair of Binoculars

Bird watching can be an inexpensive pastime, but you may want to invest in a good pair of binoculars. The most exciting bird activity happens a distance away from us, so being able to observe it as if it’s right in front of you will make it more enjoyable. You might be surprised at the amount of detail you will enjoy seeing with the use of a pair of binoculars.  

Connect with Other Bird Watchers

Don’t do this alone. Even if you prefer to watch alone, connecting with other birders is enjoyable, and you’ll learn more quickly. Other bird watchers can share their best places to observe, birds they’ve seen and where, the best books or apps, and some of their best tips. A shared hobby can forge lifelong friendships. 

Become a Morning Person

You can, of course, watch birds at any time of the day, but you don’t want to miss their morning activities. They’re the most vocal and active in the morning, making them easier to see and follow. 

While You’re Watching

Here are a few tips for watching:

  • Be quiet
  • Be still (no sudden movement)
  • Study habitats as well as the birds
  • Be patient
  • Have the sun at your back
  • Avoid bright-colored clothing
  • Look all around you
  • Take a notebook

Related: How Cities Can Better Support Birds

Final Thoughts on Bird Watching

Bird watching is an enjoyable activity, whether you do it alone or with friends. It helps you connect with nature, improving your physical, mental, and emotional health—even your brain benefits when you begin to learn about all the species you observe. 

How is your connection to nature? We believe that discovering, identifying, and learning about birds and their habitats should be accessible to everyone - no matter your age or experience. To learn more, contact BirdBot today.