Bird Watching Basics

watching birds

Bird watching is the activity of observing wild birds in their natural habitat.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, more than 50 million people in America consider themselves to be birdwatchers. Some birdwatchers may never venture beyond their own backyards, while others will travel to other parts of the world to observe wild birds. There are about 800 species of birds in North America. You could probably find about 100 species near and around where you live.

Birding (another name for bird watching) can be done in your backyard, at your local park, at work or on vacation. As you can see, birding can be done almost anywhere. Once you're hooked on bird watching you may even travel to some well know birding locations to expand your life list. I will explain what a life list is a little later.  

It is also a wonderful way to teach kids about birds.

Learn how to plan a bird watching trip here.

Why are so many people drawn to birding as a hobby?

Birding is an easy way to connect with nature. Bird watching gets you outside and moving around. Exercise is easiest when it's effortless. While focusing on your search for wild birds, you won't realize the distances you're traveling.

Bird watching used to be done with a shotgun... today we use binoculars for birding, lucky for the birds. We all enjoy treasure hunting and the satisfaction of discovery and birding provides both.

Birding is a hobby that the entire family can enjoy together. ntroducing your children to nature through birding will elevate their appreciation of the natural world around them.

Northwest Ohio Nature is a great source for information on the natural resources of Northwest Ohio. It includes many beautiful pictures. I know you will enjoy this site, even if you do not live in Ohio.

Birding can be social or solitary. You can spend a day watching birds and gathering information in total solitude. Then share your findings with other birders at local bird watching clubs.

Birds also benefit from the growing interest in bird watching. Many birding enthusiasts will set up bird feeders, birdhouses or even a wild bird habitat in their own yard. Suitable natural bird habitats continue to be lost to development. Creating sustainable natural habitats for wild birds is more important than ever before.

Bird watching is more than just learning names of birds. It is about their behavior and how they relate to nature and the world around them. The scientific study of birds is called ornithology. Ornithologists use information gathered by amateur birders to learn more about migration, species health and habitat. One of the ways that birders can contribute is by participating in annual bird counts.

Compared to other hobbies, bird watching is relatively inexpensive. Compare the prices of a notebook, a field guide and binoculars to that of a set of golf clubs and a year's worth of green’s fees and you will see that it is very economical.

To get the most out your hobby there are a few things you will need:

Best Birding Binoculars: It can be very difficult choosing the right pair of binoculars for birding, but the right pair will make all the difference in the world. When starting out, just use whatever you have. You may decide to invest in a better quality pair of binoculars as your hobby progresses. If possible, everyone in your group should have their own pair. Sharing could mean that somebody will miss something.

Field Guide: A good field guide is a must. It will provide you within valuable information needed for wild bird identification. A good field guide should include pictures, bird descriptions, habitat descriptions and bird behaviors.

Birding Equipment: As with any outdoor activity, you need to dress for all possible weather conditions. Comfort is key when choosing clothing to wear while birding. This is extremely important when it comes to footwear. Make sure that your shoes are comfortable enough to spend the entire day out walking. The colors don’t need to be camouflaged, but bright colors should be avoided. A hat to shade your eyes will also be helpful.

Notebook or Journal: A journal is important when it comes to recording your observations. For example, you will want to remember where you were when you saw your first bald eagle. Many birdwatchers keep a life list. A life list is a record of when you see a species for the first time. When you see a species for the first time it is referred to as a life bird.

There are many places where you can find more information on bird watching.

Find out if there is bird club in your area. Bird clubs are great resource for local information.

Get involved in a local or nation bird count. Click here for information on the Great Backyard Bird Count and the Annual Christmas Bird Count.

You don't need to buy a bunch of books, but you should read as much as you can. Go to your local library and check out a few books for that next rainy day.

Most of all get outside! Keep your eyes and ears open to what is around you. BE READY when that never before seen bird arrives at your feeders. Keep a pair of binoculars and a field guide close to your viewing area.

Bird watching is a lifelong journey to which there is no end

When it comes to taking great pictures of birds, there are a number of dos and don'ts. This site Practical Photography Tips has a page dedicated to tips on taking great photos of birds. 

Birding can be done in your own backyard. Learn how to attract more wild birds here.

Bird Watching for Kids

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