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How To Start Birding [Beginner's Guide & Tips]

July 24, 2021

You can’t deny it, birds are fascinating, and spending time watching them can be some of your most joyful, relaxing, and informative times. Who wouldn’t want to? Most people are perplexed about how to begin birding. Here are tips for how to get started birding. 

Where to go?

This is a big question - where are the interesting birds? First of all, they’re all interesting, and they’re everywhere! Begin your birding journey right from wherever you are - even if it’s looking out of your living room windows. Or you can visit your local park, woodland area, local reserves, or gardens. Choose a comfortable place to sit where you can see birds easily, and you’ll soon begin to recognize different species and their habits. 

Related: Bird Behavior: Identification Through Observation

Preparation before you go

Before you go for your first adventure in birding, do a little preparation. Consult the American Birding Association for their set of guidelines for minimizing your impact on the bird and wildlife environment

How to find all the birds

When you’re out birding or just out in general, try to use your other senses to detect birds. You can hear birds chattering, chirping, and singing sometimes long before you can see them. You’ve seen birds your whole life, so it becomes easy not to notice them. But now that you want to see them, it may take a little effort at first. Also, remember your peripheral vision is sensitive enough to help you find more birds. Try to think of birding as a multi-sensory activity.  

How to identify the birds you see

After you begin to see interesting birds, you will eventually want to learn their names. Or after consulting various birding books, you may want to find some of those species in your area. Join an organization of other local birders and learn from more experienced people. They’ll help you to notice and understand more of the bird activity you see. Of course, guide books, phone apps, and websites are also excellent sources of information. 

Are you interested in birds? We believe that discovering, identifying, and learning about birds should be accessible to everyone. Check out BirdBot for more information. 

How to learn more

To learn more while you’re birding, it may be helpful to document some of what you see. Guide your journaling by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Where do I see this bird?
  • How big is it?
  • Is it bigger or smaller than other birds in the area?
  • Describe its color and patterns, and don’t forget to describe the legs, claws, bill, etc.  
  • Was it alone, or was it with other similar birds?
  • What was it doing?
  • If it was making a sound - how did it sound?  
  • What was it eating?

The more you watch, the more questions or observations you will have. Journaling will help you build knowledge. Remember, this is an enjoyable pastime. Don’t get too caught up in the details - do as little or as much as you want. 

If you’re artistic, consider adding sketches of your observations. 

Related: How to Stream Your Own Live Bird Feeder Cam

Birding isn’t just about watching; it’s also about listening

Watching bird activity is very satisfying, but birding isn’t just about what you can see. Birds make beautiful sounds, songs, chirping, chattering, etc. You can research what the various bird sounds mean and who is making the sounds. It can be fun to record the sounds and try to identify the bird. 

Additionally, you can use your smartphone to video record fascinating bird behavior to watch later or show friends.

When to go birding

There are opportunities to go birding no matter the season. Springtime is great for seeing birds newly arriving, courtship and nesting behavior, and hearing birdsongs. Summer is for watching fledglings, while the fall lets you see birds migrating. The winter is fantastic for watching starling murmurations, visiting birds from further North, flocks of waterfowl, and late afternoon roosts. 

What equipment do you need?

Don’t rush out and purchase expensive equipment immediately, but here are a few items that will enrich your birding and make your observations much easier. 

  • Binoculars will help you see and appreciate far more detail on the birds and see their activity up close. 
  • When you really get going, consider investing in a telescope.  
  • A notebook and pencil to record your observations.
  • A field guide book with waterproof charts and illustrations from the Field Studies Council.
  • A good raincoat and boots.
  • Sunscreen and a wide brim hat for sunny days.
  • If you want to engage in birding at home, check out BirdBot's Bird Feeder Cam!

Take a friend

As much fun as it is to bird-watch, it is even more fun with a friend. Find someone who knows more about birding than you, who you can teach you. Or take a friend who is new to birding and pass on the wealth of your knowledge. As birding can take lots of time, it might be enjoyable to have a friend along who you can chat with (quietly). 

Connect with other birders

Join your local Audubon Society chapter, and if you ever travel to visit other birding sites, you can check out the local society chapter for directions and tips for birding in their area. Over 450 chapters around the US can provide information on birding in their specific areas, with reports of rare birds spotted.  

Travel to see birds

As you really begin to enjoy birding, you may want to expand your experiences by traveling to other areas, regions, and even countries to see birds. The opportunities are endless to see and hear amazing birds. You might even consider visiting a bird festival. A couple of the best festivals are the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Texas and The Biggest Week in American Birding in Ohio. You can participate in programs, seminars, and panels led by experts at these and other festivals. 

Related: How Do Birds Provide Ecosystems Services

The final word on birding

Nearly 47 million Americans love to birdwatch, and you can begin at any time with minimal investment. Birding is a peaceful and joyful activity and can be a great way to de-stress and escape the busyness of your work.

Do you love birds and want to learn more? No matter your age or experience, we can help you learn about birds and our environment. Check out BirdBot today!