Bird watching, often called birding, is the study of avian species through the use of binoculars, telescopes and other visual enhancements. It can also be done by listening to bird calls or by simply watching the birds. Since the majority of bird species are more easily detected by listening than by watching, auditory components are used more often.
Ornithologists typically engage themselves in bird watching because of their scientific study, but many birdwatchers pursue birding simply for the fun of it. For everyone else, bird watching is a leisure activity that is somewhat social and educational.
The interest in birding continues to grow each day, as more and more people decide to take it up and see what nature has to offer. This unique hobby has a lot to offer, but to become a better birder and get more out of this experience, there are some birding basics you should know which we will outline below.
There’s any number of ways you can participate in birding, but the most important aspect of it is being able to appreciate the birds in their natural habitat. For that reason, there are four basic requirements that a birder must meet in order to be successful at birding. Those four are location, caution, expertise and equipment.
Having success in watching is hinged on finding the proper location. Bird species all across the Americas are varied according to region. It’s crucial that you consider the places in which the widest range of bird species can be found. Throughout the seasons, birds migrate from one place to another. That makes it equally important to time your visit according to seasons, during which these places are massing with birds. In places where many bird species migrate to during the winter seasons, people simply go out to their backyards, sprinkle bird feeds over their lawns or build birdhouses and wait for the birds to come.
Bird watching is best done at a great distance, so as not to disturb the flocks of birds. Put simply, it’s not wise to chase away the birds you want to watch. You must be able to observe them without giving them cause to worry or be frightened, which happens quickly with most birds. It’s important to note that birds are sensitive creatures and may react to the simplest of things. A small movement, a flutter of the winds or snapping a twig under your foot can cause the birds to panic. Taking nearly anything as a threat, the birds will just fly away. In a nutshell, extreme caution is the second requirement to succeed in birding.
Keep in mind that birding is at its best when you can observe the birds in detail. That’s what binoculars and telescopes are for. A good set of binoculars with a wide field of view will allow you to easily locate birds, as well as follow their movements. Your binoculars should also provide bright enough images, as that is essential for distinguishing subtle features, color variations and small details, especially if there is not enough sunlight and the surroundings are providing you with only limited dim light.
If you are wearing glasses, ask for binoculars that have a long enough ‘eye relief’. This is an important feature, as an unrestricted view is one of the essential elements to consider when you will be using an instrument for hours. Ideally, you should avoid buying pocket-size binoculars. Even though the weight and the size of pocket-size binoculars can be tempting for many people, the fact is that they are inferior in quality to the view and features of many full-size binoculars.
Besides binoculars, a suitable set of clothes and shoes which blend in with the colors of the natural surroundings you find yourself is mandatory. It is important not to wear clothes made of polyester that will make a lot of noise when you move, because chances are you will scare the birds when approaching them. If you are planning to take a trip to an area of marshland, swamps and other wetlands, you will also need an insect net for your face, as such areas are often infested with mosquitoes, flies and other insects.
We recommend beginners, who need some help in where to go and what to look for, to hire a field guide. Especially if you are interested in finding migratory or rare birds. Such guides often have aerial maps and routes that the migrating birds take, as well as having the times marked for when during the year these birds can be observed. For rare species, birding guides provide detailed information and maps of the habitats where the birds you are looking for have greatest population density and therefore the best chance of seeing it. Another option is to join an organized birding tour.
Only through vast experience can birders learn how to properly approach the birds. Key is to show patience, as birds are naturally shy, and it may take an hour or even longer before you are able to spot and observe the species of bird you are after. Additionally, birds can hear as good as they can see. You will find that birds are very vocal creatures and have an advanced mode of communication. Through distinct bird calls, each member of the species is able to communicate with one another. As a birder, you can take advantage of this by learning and familiarizing yourself with the bird calls.
If you stick to the birding basics described above, you will be on your way to becoming one of the better birders and will be able to have many relaxing and enjoyable hours blending with the surroundings and watching birds in their natural habitat. Ultimately, expertise will come with experience and you’ll be able to appreciate bird watching even more.