Considering all the beautiful, majestic birds out there, itís no surprise that so many people fall in love with birding. If youíre a beginner, getting the hang of spotting, identifying, and snapping photos of birds takes a little time ñ but weíve collected a few tips to help new birders hone their skills.
- Make sure you have a field guide and binoculars
Thereís some equipment youíll want to have right from the start ñ including a field guide to help you identify birds and locate which species could be in which areas. Some of the most popular guides are by Sibley, National Geographic, and Peterson, and all would be excellent resources for any beginner.
Youíll also want to get a good pair of binoculars. Good birding binoculars can be a little pricy, but itíll be worth it to clearly see birds from afar. The Nature Conservancy recommends getting a pair that is waterproof, has at least 8x magnification, and also is easy to focus. It suggests testing them out at a local nature center or birding store, too. (What’s comfortable for one person might not be comfortable for another.)
Click here to see The Sibley Guide to Birds (region-specific guides available, too)
Click here to see The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
Click here to see the Peterson Field Guide
- Research birds in your region Identifying birds can be tricky, so it helps to know which ones actually would live in your area. Knowing what your habitat is like and what kinds of birds it would attract will help you narrow down the possibilities.
- Study birds and take notes before searching field guides
Resist the urge to quickly check your field guide once you spot a bird. Instead, About.com and other resources suggest carefully studying each bird because it could quickly fly away ñ they are always on the go, after all. Look for distinct markings, colors, and size, and keep an ear out for any sounds it makes. Once the bird has flown away, you can jot down these mental notes and then check the field guide.
Speaking of notes, the Bedford Audubon Society recommends diaries and checklists that can help you identify birds, too. A diary can simply be a personal journal where you record dates, locations, and birds you see, while checklists can help narrow down what type of bird youíve seen.
- Consider adding a birdfeeder or specific plants to your backyard
Though you want to explore all the natural areas in your region for different types of birds, your backyard can also be a great place to see them. Plus, encouraging birds to come into your backyard can help you practice some of your skills ñ watching, identifying, taking notes, and even taking pictures.
Adding a birdfeeder will require taking some precautions ñ e.g. putting it somewhere far enough from trees so that squirrels canít easily jump onto it ñ because other animals will also try and snag the birdseed.
WildBirds.com explains how certain plants can even attract specific birds, like honeysuckle for hummingbirds. There are tons of flowers, shrubs, and trees that birds will flock to.
- Join other birders Being able to ask questions and learn from longtime birders can be a priceless resource for any beginner, and there are tons of different ways to meet other people who also love birds. Check out your local Audubon Society by clicking here, and youíll find local events like bird walks and field trips where you can meet other birders. Other nature centers and bird shops also likely have good leads to birding groups and events, too.
With the right equipment, plenty of research, and help from fellow bird lovers, youíll be feeling more confident in no time. And, youíll find methods and processes that work for you. Thereís also always something new to see and learn, which makes birding even more fun.