young boy with binoculars

How to Get Started in the Bird Watching? Beginners Guide

If you’re looking for a fun hobby, you can do anywhere, anytime, without investing tons of dollars, then the complete guide to getting started in the bird watching hobby is the one for you.

You can do it while sitting on the rooftop, traveling, or even from the window of your home. You can do it for fun or keep a life list. Life list- A list of all the different birds a birder sees throughout his life.

Whether you do it for fun or any other reason, I can assure you’ll enjoy these beautiful creatures’ sights and sounds. Here’s how you can start with this new fun activity with our the complete beginner’s guide to birdwatching.

How to Get Started in the Bird Watching?

Take a Walk Outside

You don’t need to move far from your home to have fun watching birds, which makes this exciting and straightforward hobby.

Step outside of your back door or take a peek out of the window, you’ll find a lot of birds hanging out in there.

If you have a bird feeder, then it’s like the cherry on top of a cake. Fill up the bird feeders with the birdseed; make sure you’re feeding a good quality of seed.

You might not know, but birds are attracted to water, and they love to shower. If possible, try to provide a water fountain or a small bathtub for them, and after a few days, your place will become popular.

A birdbath is a great idea to attract birds and make them happy, especially in summers, when the sun dominates and birds need a place to wet their feathers and body.

Get a Guide

You know, birds have different songs and calls. It will help if you have a guide, to recognize their species.

A good bird watcher can recognize a bird by listening to the sound made by the Bird.

A bird book can be beneficial for identifying the birds. If you don’t like reading books, then you can go for mobile phone apps.

Yes, there are apps for identifying birds, take your phone along when you’re going bird watching. You can download these apps from the App Store/Play Store.

Buy Binoculars

Binoculars are not compulsory for bird watching if you enjoy watching birds and feeding them, a pair of binoculars can make birding a lot easier and more enjoyable.

You can get a good pair of bird watching binoculars in the range of $100 to $200. If you’re looking for a great deal I would recommend looking at Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars on Amazon.

Ensure binoculars you’re buying are not too heavy as you might need to watch birds for several minutes, and heavy binoculars would not support that.

To check the quality of a Bird watching binoculars point it towards any dark conner and gaze through them. If you have a beautiful view in the darkest corner, then your binoculars have excellent brightness and clarity.

Having excellent brightness and clarity means you can do Birding even on rainy days, and your binoculars are powerful enough to catch any shortest or fastest Bird.

I recommend buying binoculars online for the best prices and the biggest selections.

Find Different Locations for Birding

Seek for different locations where you can find new birds. You can find birds munching around in your backyard when you put the bird feeders, but if you want to see new birds and explore Birding, you’ll have to find new locations and habitats.

Like humans, different birds prefer to live in different locations. You can visit the nearest park if you live in a city area and don’t have any trees or shrubs near your house.

Join Birders Group

Bird watching is a unique hobby, and chances are very high that you’re the only one in your friend circle having it.

So, it’s an excellent opportunity for you to make new friends with the same interest.

You can easily find Bird watcher clubs in your city where you can apply and join their Bird watching community.

You can also join Bird watching Facebook groups, and find people already having this hobby, find people with whom you can go for Birding.

Not just you’ll find friends, but at the same time, you can learn a lot from their experience.

After you find enough friends, you can make a WhatsApp group and discuss the matters. Also, you can decide to go for Bird watching together in that group.

Don’t Miss the Mornings.

Birds are most active in the morning. It doesn’t mean you can’t watch birds other times of the day.

But studies have proved that birds are most active in the morning and least active in the afternoon.

If you wish to see new varieties, then you must wake up when the sun comes up. If you’re not a morning person, then it can be very exhausting for you, and you might give up on this hobby very soon.

Try to wake up early in the morning, have a cup of a coffee, shower, pick your binoculars, and enjoy bird watching.

Once you start doing it and make it a routine, I’m sure one day will come when you couldn’t start your day without seeing these beautiful feathered creatures.

You can say these were the necessary steps for beginners to start with this hobby. Now we’ll see some essential things a beginner bird watcher should know.

Equipment do you need for Bird Watching?

You don’t need to spend thousands of bucks on this hobby, but we need some gear to make this activity more fun.

Monocular with a Smartphone Holder

Try a Digiscope which is fairly new technology to birdwatching.

Monocular is additional spotting scope to your smartphone camera by which you can spot birds and even take their pictures on your smartphone.

It’s not essential if you do Birding for fun only, but if you wish to post pictures on your Instagram or other social media platforms, then it is a good deal for you. I’m currently using the CREATIVE XP Spotting Scope with Tripod from Amazon. The price is very affordable and the quality is excellent.

Camera Backpack

If you’re traveling for Birding with your camera and gear, you need a backpack to avoid damaging the lenses and the camera itself.

Go for a padded backpack, which is more robust, and can bear the shocks and save the accessories during the journey.

You’ll use backpacks for many other reasons like holding your snacks, water bottle, and even binoculars. Check out the TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack on Amazon.

All-Weather Notebook

It might seem very useless, but birders use notebooks for many purposes.

It’s not just a simple notebook; the all-weather notebook is waterproof and weatherproof. It won’t get damaged in any weather.

You can write in this notebook under any climatic conditions with any simple pencil or pen we use for regular work.

Bird watchers use this notebook to note down bird names, their anatomy, and many other things. Check Amazon for the lowest prices on a Bird Watching Log, Notebook, and Journal.

Water Wiggler

As we know, birds like water and they love places where they can have a bath. But one more point we need to remember here is that birds don’t like still water much.

So if you have a birdbath in your backyard, you’ll need a water wiggler.

Water wiggler keeps the water in your Birdbath on the move. It makes it more joyful for your feathered friends, and it also avoids diseases caused by still water. I have personally never used a water wiggler myself, but you can find them on Amazon at a great price I’m sure.

Trail Cameras

Trail cameras are beneficial when it comes to recording videos or taking pictures without manual operators.

These cameras capture images and take video shots when you’re not around. Trail cameras use motion sensors that activate them whenever they sense any motion.

Now, you won’t miss anything, and even if you’re not a morning person, you can activate this camera and see who ate the birdseed. Check the price of the APEMAN Mini Trail Camera 16MP 1080P with 16 GB TF Card Waterproof Game Camera for Wildlife on Amazon.

Night Vision Monocular

Birders use Night vision monoculars for Bird watching at night or for watching birds who only appear at night, like owls.

The monoculars also use infrared and allow you to take photos and record videos. They have a light adjustment feature, and you can zoom in or out as needed. For the best price on night vision binoculars check out the Vortex Optics Solo R/T 8×36 Monocular available on Amazon.

Insect Proof Hoodie

It is a safety gear, and you’ll not need it unless you’re going to the forest or any other mosquito prone area. You won’t need it if you are birding in your backyard or the city park.

But it’s always a good idea to have it in case of an emergency. Amazon has some nice hoodies, I would check out the Aventik Mosquito Jacket. It’s a really nice quality jacket that will prepare you for the worst, and priced nicely.

Good Shoes

Some elegant bird always draws them off the trail and into the (inevitably) wet and muddy undergrowth. Always have a pair of shoes handy.

If you’re not going into forests and mountains, regular shoes will work, but having one for an emergency trip is the right choice.

Hat

A hat is a small thing, but it can make the birding experience more enjoyable if you’re going out on a sunny day. It is an essential element because bird trips can go longer than planned.

Field Guide

As a Birdwatcher, you should identify every Bird you see, and it’s impossible to know all of them at the beginning. A field guide helps you in identifying a bird.

Having a field guide gives a map of the area with a full description of different bird species along with illustrations of the bird. Field guides are beneficial for beginners, and even expert Birders use it when they visit a new region.

Once you start with the field guides, with the time you’ll see, you won’t need it anymore (for a specific region), and you’ll learn the art of identifying a bird. You can purchase field guides from almost every bookstore, or you can order it online.

Checklist

A checklist is handy, and whenever you find a new bird, you can mark a tick mark in front of that Bird on the list.

What time of the day is best for Bird-Watching?

Birds are most active at dusk or dawn. When it’s hot during the afternoon, birds become inactive. Like humans, birds also have regular and daily patterns, and a birder should understand those patterns.

Learning their behavior can help birders learn which time is best to see birds. Some species can also be found on a sunny afternoon, so if it’s winter or you wish to see them anyway, you can go out in the afternoon.

I suggest you go Birding either in the morning or in the evening. We can see birds all year round, but there are certain times when we can see a wide range of species.

What’s the difference between Birding and Bird-Watching?

At the beginning of my Bird watching hobby, I considered both the Birding and Bird watching as the same thing. It was the first time when I got confused between the two.

After reaching home, I searched on Google, “What is the difference between Birding and Bird Watching?” And finally, I figured out the difference between the two. Let me tell you the difference in simple words.

Birding and Bird watching are two different experiences, or you can say two states of mind. You can birdwatch from the backyard window or even while walking across the streets and looking at the birds.

You don’t need to travel long distances or even short paths for bird watching. Bird watching is a casual hobby, which doesn’t mean it’s frivolous.

Bird watchers do carry binoculars and field guides and are passionate about discovering new species. Most of the Bird watchers can quickly identify a bird.

One the other hand, Birders are like a professional version of Bird watchers. They are more obsessed with new species and birds. Birders like chasing the birds for hours, getting in the car, and driving for hours to see a vagrant bird.

For a Birder, bird watching is much more than a hobby. Most of the birders love to make records and watch as many new species as they can, no matter how much they need to travel.

How do Birdwatchers Identify a Bird?

I can’t tell you how to identify a bird in such a small article, but I can give you a brief idea of how bird watchers identify a bird.These are some essential factors you need to look on for identifying a bird:

  • Size
  • Look
  • Tail
  • Range

Size

Size is an essential factor, and it will filter down a lot of options. You can make three to four categories based on the bird size as extra small, small, medium, large, extra-large. Put the Bird in a significant category and filter out other options.

For judging the size correctly, watch the Bird for several minutes so that you can see it in different poses. It would avoid the error, and you could identify the Bird more precisely.

Identifying

First, look at the Bird, don’t just start reading the field book right away. The Bird may not be there after a few seconds, but the field book will remain with you.

Try to figure out the most exciting thing about the bird or the most noticeable attribute. It can be feathers, tail, neck, or any other part. Birders can identify a bird with its general impression.

Tail

Compare the tail with the following factors:

  • Long or short
  • Rounded or forked
  • Darker or lighter than the back

Color

Ask these questions to yourself, and when you get all the answers, open the field book, and try to figure out the Bird you’ve been watching.

These are very obvious clues for identifying a bird, and any bird watcher should understand their importance. It might seem like a lot of work to start with, but when you practice it, you’ll start enjoying this hobby more.

I suggest you start to ask these questions at the very beginning and keep practicing. One day you’ll start getting answers automatically, and you’ll be able to identify the birds without opening the field book.

Range

Bird range can be an excellent clue for its identification. It’s hard to identify a bird only with their range, but it can act as a helping hand with other factors.

These were some of the essential factors by which Birders identify a bird. If you’re starting with this hobby, don’t worry if you misidentify a Bird, everyone does it.

Use your field book, try to identify the Birds coming in your backyard, and reward yourself whenever you identify one correctly.

Analyze your mistakes and identify the things you’re missing while identifying a Bird. Grab your friends and ask them for Bird watching (for a few minutes); tell them what you know about the Bird.

Tufted Titmouse
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

Why is Birding important?

Birdwatchers contribute a lot to the bird research, and the amount of high-quality research-grade data that they generate is genuinely fabulous.

It’s also important because it provides an intimate connection between humans and the natural environment.

People who share a connection with nature and spend time observing wildlife have a stake in ensuring its preservation.

Birdwatchers will lead to better protection of the world’s wildlife and wilderness spaces.

Birdwatching is one of the top 10 hobbies globally; Birders also have a significant economic impact through their spending on Birding gear and trip-related purchases.

Their trip-related expenditures include accommodation, transport, catering-related spending, and equipment-related expenses, including binoculars, cameras, clothing, books, etc.

Birdwatching is also good for your physical and mental health. It can take physical efforts to keep up with this hobby.

You’ll have to step out of the house and walk around to see new species, which means you’ll have to leave the sofa or the bed and do some physical work.

As we discussed above, morning is the best time for Bird watching, and if you follow this routine and start waking up early in the morning, we all know how beneficial “early to bed early to rise.” formula is.

Waking up early in the morning will improve your mental health, remove stress, and even depression. Whenever you step out for Bird watching, you’ll intake fresh air, which would activate all the body cells and maintain proper blood circulation.

Choosing Binoculars for Bird Watching?

Decide the Price Range

The first step is to decide the price range for buying the binoculars, which will filter out other options. Binocular is one of the crucial gears for Birding, so try to invest some good amount of money in it. You can find a good piece of binoculars in the range of $100 to $200.

Picking a Magnification

You’ll get to choose between 8x and 10x binoculars. Selecting a good set of binoculars is crucial. Choose 10x binoculars for more distance and 8x for closer viewing. Both are excellent.

Test Models Out

So, to find the best one for you, you need to test it. Before buying your first piece of binoculars test as many of them as you can and choose the one you’re comfortable with.

I’m currently using the Nikon Prostaff 3S Binoculars, which I would highly recommend. I purchased them for a great deal on Amazon.

Dark-eyed Junco
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

Check for Bright and True colors.

How bright are the bins, How sharp image they show, How true are the colors, these are some qualities of a good piece of Binoculars.

How well do they resolve details in a backlit image?

For testing the image quality and low-light performance, check the binoculars in some dark place.

Check other Features and Warranties

The field of view and close focus are two important features that affect how much you’ll see, so make sure that the binoculars you’re choosing should respect these features.

Waterproofing, Durability, and warranty are some other features to look upon. Many of the optics companies now offer excellent warranties, so don’t forget to check it out.

I suggest you check online reviews and price of the binoculars you’re interested in.

Some people also prefer “IS Binoculars,” which is “Image Stabilization Binoculars,” these provide better image stabilization. Still, many people don’t suggest them for nature viewing because they’re big, heavier than non-IS bins.

It’s a tough choice, though, but I suggest you try both of them and choose the best one for you.

Is Bird Watching a Sport?

A sport is defined as physical activity, generally involving some physical skill and exertion.

Like most hobbies, you’ll do birding to enjoy yourself. In sport, we have a goal to achieve something; however, some people are very serious about this hobby. They want to discover all the Bird species, which is a goal like we have in any sport.

It can be argued that Birdwatching is a hobby and not an official sport, but most people treat it like a hobby, and their end-goal is to enjoy it simply.

However, we do have Bird Watching clubs, leagues, and even competitions for passionate Birders.

Bird watching Associations, Leagues and Clubs

Bird watchers can join associations that can help them discover birdwatching meetups and communities.

The best way to find a Bird watcher group near you is by typing “Bird watching groups near me” on Google, and you’ll find all the groups near you.

Try to find their contact and then ask them about the procedure to join their group. Fill all the requirements and join the group you find most interesting.

You can even find competitions in this hobby; there are different competitions for different age groups. Like we have a Youth Birding Competition for youths.

You might need a professional Birder (Mentor) with you for some competitions while some of them will provide you the one. These competitions take place all around the world in different cities and even on an international level in various countries.

The entry fee for most of the competitions is free while you might need to pay for residential stuff. They also provide a lot of fun stuff like t-shirts, awards, stickers, and many other things for participants.

Career in Birdwatching

Most of the people do birdwatching for fun, but no one sees a career opportunity in it.

What if you fall in love with this hobby?

Wouldn’t you like to search for a career in it?

Of course, you will, and you can have a career in it.

Wildlife Biologist

A wildlife biologist is a thing that comes to my mind when I think of a career in Birding. They can tell what the effect of particular human activities on birds is.

Policy Advocates

The second option you can go for is Policy Advocate; these people are not scientists, but they are the ones who bring changes to reality.

They make sure that all the national parks and birds within them are well taken care of. Policy Advocates make policies for any problem or fact scientists find for changing the world of nature in a better way.

Of course, they do a lot of other stuff also, but this is one of the ways for Birders to keep in touch with birds while earning enough money. In simple words, Policy Advocates are the one who changes the world by bringing in policies.

There are a lot of other groups, communities that are working to protect birds. These groups even work on National and International levels, and they need more people for help. You can join these communities and help them save nature and birds.

Professional Bird Guide

The third career option we have is a “Professional Bird Guide,” once you become a professional Birder, you can help beginners with this hobby. It is the most available career opportunity you can go for when you’re good enough to guide others.

Once you become a professional, you’ll start getting job offers from tour companies for guiding their customers (Birders). It seems like a perfect job, but you need to be very good at it because those beginners’ birders will ask a lot of questions, and your job is to answer them as quickly as you can.

Writer/Editor

It is also a fantastic job opportunity for those who like sharing their experiences with others by writing. If you think you’ve learned enough and can now teach others about this hobby, you can publish books, e-books, and other forms of written content.

Becoming a writer is not that easy, and it can take time, so, at the same time, you can publish your articles in magazines and newspapers. Once you get enough fan following, publish your book and focus on its marketing.

Black-capped Chickadee
Photo by Mary Hammel on Unsplash

Blogger

You can start your Blog on Birds; as you know, people earn thousands of dollars only from their blogs. Starting a Blog is very easy, and within a year, you can start earning hundreds of dollars from it. You can even sell your ebooks on your Blog.

YouTube

YouTube is one of the fastest-growing platforms, and if you’ve some unique content, you’ll definitely grow on it.

You just need to post your Birding videos on YouTube, and that’s it; trust me, you can earn a lot from YouTube. The only thing YouTube wants is consistency and patience.

Conclusion:

Beginners can start Bird Watching from their Backyard and even from the backyard window. Step out of the house, grab a guide, get a pair of binoculars, find different locations, join birders group.

Morning is the best time for watching new species. Some essential gear for Bird watching is Backpack, Shoes, Notebook, Pen, Binoculars, etc.

Morning time and the evening time is the best time for watching birds as birds seek food at that time. Birdwatcher watches birds at nearby places, whereas a Birder follows birds.

Birders are a more passionate version of Bird watchers. Birders even travel long distances and for hours to see new species.

Size, Look, Tail, Range are some important factors bird watchers use to identify a bird. Birding helps people build a connection with nature.

It is known that birding is beneficial to mental and physical health. You need to pick your Binoculars very carefully, avoid heavy ones.

You can find Bird watching leagues, competitions, Associations all around the world. Birding competitions are different for different age groups.

There are a lot of career opportunities in Birding. Some of the career opportunities are Wildlife Biologist, Policy Advocate, Professional Bird guide, Writer, Blogger, or YouTuber.