Want to go birding? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Birds are everywhere – you don’t need to know anything about birds to get enjoyment from watching them – in your garden, at the beach, on your way to work – providing attraction and pleasure for us all.
- Your eyes and ears are all you need to start watching birds. Start looking at bird shapes, sizes, colours, posture, where they live and, listen to their songs – you’ll soon start to notice differences between species. Are they as small as a bee or as large as a turkey? Do they have long straight or short forked tails? Are they all one colour or multi-colour? Are they feeding on the ground or high in trees? Do they call with a pleasant song or with a constant trill?
- If you decide to get more serious about birding, find a pair of binoculars to take a closer look – any old binoculars will do to start, or use a camera to take photos – even a phone camera can take a good bird photo. Use your binoculars or camera to look at the detail of the bird. Is the bill longer or shorter than the head? Does it have patterns or is it plain on the chest? Does it have yellow or pink legs? Does it fly with regular wingbeats or does it soar?
- Try and get hold of a bird field guide for your region. Spend some time getting familiar with the layout of the book. Many books will have checklists and distribution maps of birds you might expect to find in your area. Look at the pictures, and read the species description as it’ll tell you what distinguishing features to look for. You’ll also find it useful to read the habitat description to compare with where you saw the bird. Check out the vocalisation descriptions too – you can also find many audio recordings of bird calls online.
- If you’re getting hooked it’s now time to find a local birding group. Meeting more experienced birders will help you learn to identify species that are more difficult to distinguish. All bird species are different from each other in some way, but some are so similar they can take years to become expert at identifying.
- Get a notebook to record what bird you saw, when and where. That’s it! You’re on your way to becoming a birdwatcher and a citizen scientist!
- Whatever level you’re at, the most important thing is to get out there and enjoy seeing some birds!
Here are some links to some other sites that will help you get better at birding:
Birding Basics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Watching Birds at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds