How Do I Get Started Bird Watching?


A Joyful Noise!

A Joyful Noise!


The growth in bird watching’s popularity is amazing; the US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates there are 51.3 million … and still counting.

Bird watching is as natural as watching the birds outside your window. It requires very little equipment to get started and the activity seems to be “good for the soul.”

Some folks get started watching birds as an off-shoot of feeding birds. Many conservation groups encourage people to feed birds, especially during the winter months, when food isn’t as plentiful.

It is estimated that there are over 900 bird species just in North America! According to, it is easy to find about 100 bird species in any given region of the country.

Things You Need to Start

First, I’d suggest getting a field guide, so you can learn about the birds you observe.  Probably, the standard is: Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification, Golden Books, publishers.

However, looking at the ratings of buyers, that book has been surpassed by these: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Fifth Edition (5 stars out of 5 stars), The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of North American Birds: An Essential Guide To Birds Of North America (5 out of 5) and National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America (National Wildlife Federation Field Guide) {5 of 5}.

The full-color guides will add immeasurably to your satisfaction. They provide a comprehensive look at a bird’s habitats, behavior, flight, migration, songs, and plumage; strategies for watching and identifying birds and even a checklist of birds. Keep in mind: You will be happier purchasing a guide with a waterproof cover.

Next, wear comfortable clothes. At times, you may need hiking boots or a waterproof poncho, in order to be comfortable. Be sure to wear layers of clothing, so you can add or subtract garments as needed.

Taking Notes

Bring a notebook and pencil/pen. I’ve known more bird enthusiasts who have wanted to kick themselves for not keeping notes from day # 1. Some keep a “trip list” or a “date list” or a “year book,” while others keep notebooks by state or county.

In order to see birds in all their majesty, a pair of binoculars are needed. “Beg or borrow” a pair for the first few excursions.  Why? There are lots of variables in choosing the right pair of binoculars. You won’t know what you really need until you have some experience.

Finally, bring a friend. This is one of those hobbies where enjoyment is doubled by having a companion. One can be sharing info from the guide while another person reports on the bird’s movements. When trying to determine a species, four eyes are better than two!

Getting More Info

When you are ready to try further afield than your own back yard, you might want to join a class or a group.  Hop on the Internet and locate a local branch of the Audubon Society. They offer trips and lectures on a variety of topics related to birding.

Join the bunches of Winter Texans who come to our state for the mild weather and enjoy the birds wintering in hundreds of birdwatching locations. Here’s a helpful site (although it is offered by Texas, it gives ‘how to get started’ & US-wide info):

The Audubon Society: Here’s a helpful interactive map, to find a state or local chapter:


This blog is a companion to my website:

Published in: on November 1, 2008 at 9:23 pm  Comments (2)  
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