How to Be a Birdwatcher

Three Parts:Preparing Yourself for BirdwatchingGoing Out to BirdwatchIdentifying Birds

Birdwatching is a fun pastime that promotes both physical and mental activity. It requires you to walk around to spot the birds, helping your body stay active. You also have to compare the characteristics of the birds you see to those listed in your field guide, always pushing your brain to learn more about the topic. If you are interested in becoming a birdwatcher, there are a few things you need to consider before you start your journey.

Part 1
Preparing Yourself for Birdwatching

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    Do some cursory research. Before you leave your home, spend some time doing a little preliminary research on the birds in your area. Having an idea about what you can expect to see in the wild is a great way to begin preparing yourself for your birdwatching excursion.[1]
    • You can read books about birdwatching or look up information online.
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    Wear dark or neutral colors. Part of being a good birdwatcher is blending into your surroundings so that you don’t disrupt the birds. This way, you can spend more time observing them in their natural habitats. Put on some dark or camouflaged clothing so that the birds won't notice you as easily.[2]
    • You may also want to wear a hat to keep the sun off your face and prevent sunburn.
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    Learn the lingo. In the birdwatching community, there is a difference between a birdwatcher and a birder. A birdwatcher is someone who enjoys watching birds a bit closer to home, while a birder is someone who will travel far and wide to spot a rare species of bird.[3]
    • Some people use these terms interchangeably, but typically a birder is considered someone who is more intensely invested in watching and documenting birds.
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    Get some good binoculars. To be a good birdwatcher, you’ll need a solid pair of binoculars to help you spot those birdies from a distance. Try to find a local nature center that will let you try out different kinds of binoculars before you spend your money purchasing one.[4]
    • Look for binoculars that are waterproof and that magnify at least 8x.
    • A good pair will probably cost you between $100 and $300.
    • You could also use a telescope, though these are significantly less portable than binoculars.
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    Purchase a bird field guide. The field guide is important because it allows you to match what you’ve seen in nature to the accurate species. This is how you start fine tuning your knowledge and learning about various species of birds.[5]
    • A good field guide should cost you between $15 and $40.
    • Some guides use photographs of the different bird species, while others use paintings and illustrations. Decide which kind you like better.
    • Try to begin with a field guide that is specific to your geographical region. This will help keep you from getting overwhelmed in the beginning when you are still learning.
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    Create a birdwatching pack. Depending on how long you stay out birdwatching and how far you travel from home, you may need to bring some important items with you. Pack a small bag or backpack with the following items:[6]
    • Several bottles of water
    • Some food
    • Jacket and/or change of clothes
    • Lantern
    • Pocketknife
    • Insect repellant
    • Notebook to record your findings
    • Sleeping bag and tent (for overnight excursions)

Part 2
Going Out to Birdwatch

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    Choose a location. Go to a park or place where you suspect there will be a lot of birds. This means finding places where birds usually live – near water, trees, or feeding sites. Check the internet or your local field guide for recommendations about places to start your birdwatching adventure.[7]
    • There are many online websites that provide lists of well-known locations for birdwatching all over the country.[8][9]
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    Walk slowly and quietly. You don’t want to startle the birds as you enter their habitat. So try to keep the noise and interference to a minimum. Walk as quietly as possible and make a serious effort to walk slowly through the area.[10]
    • This will help you from scaring the birds away.
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    Pick a place to settle down. Choose a location to sit down – on a bench, on the ground, wherever you can make yourself the most comfortable. Stay very still and use a notebook and pencil to record the birds you see. If you don't know the name of a bird you have seen, try to draw a picture.[11]
    • It may take a little time for you to find a bird, but letting them come to you is a better way to observe them in their natural habitat than trying to search them out as this might scare them off.

Part 3
Identifying Birds

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    Observe the bird. Once you spot a bird, spend some time observing it. Use your binoculars to inspect the bird without getting too close so you don’t scare it. Focus your binoculars so you can see the bird as clearly as possible. Enjoy this glimpse into the natural world and absorb what you can.[12]
    • Watch how the bird behaves, its mannerisms, and listen for any sounds it makes.
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    Notice any distinguishing features. In order to identify the bird, you’ll need to observe certain markings and features that can help you differentiate what specific type of bird it is. Notice the coloring, any unique markings, or any identifying features on its head or tail.[13]
    • First, identify the most obvious feature of the bird. This characteristic is called a bird’s field mark and will help you identify the bird.
    • Start at the top of the bird’s head and work your way down. This will help you keep your clues organized and to develop a system of observation and identification over time.
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    Make a list of birds you see. Keeping track of the birds you see is a fun activity for you as a birdwatcher. But it will also help you make discoveries about what kinds of birds can be found in various areas.[14]
    • This isn’t a requirement for birdwatchers, but if you want you can use the information from your list to help organizations that collect bird-related data.
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    Keep birdwatching regularly. As with any hobby, the more you practice birdwatching, the better you will become at identifying the various species. This will probably make the activity more enjoyable to you over time. With practice you will be able to identify more birds more quickly, and you will know where to find them.


  • You can use a tent to stay even more hidden away from birds.
  • Sprinkle some bird seeds around the area you are in.
  • If you are traveling to a new area, it may help to hire a field guide to find the hard to locate species and or to get familiar with the habitats of the new area.


  • Bring your field guide with you. It's very difficult to identify a bird from your guide long after you last viewed the information.
  • Make sure you don’t get too close to a bird's nest as it may abandon it. Treat wildlife with respect.
  • Some birds may attack you if you come too close to them. Be cautious.

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Categories: Birdwatching