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Bird watching tips for beginners

  • Dec 18, 2016

There are hundreds of types of birds that call North America home. Some like the iconic bald eagle are apex predators, while smaller species such as warblers and nuthatches are humble insectivores. Even introduced birds like the non-native European starling have become key members of the ecological community, and indeed birds of all shapes and sizes can be spotted if you know where to look.

Bird watching is an excellent activity for people of all ages. It's a great way to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and exercise, and it can also be a way to become better connected to nature. If you're interested in adopting bird watching as a hobby, follow these helpful tips:

Be patient
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when bird watching is that its an activity that rewards patience. The gift of flight gives birds a unique ability to explore their territories, and even when they are nearby some species are masters of camouflage.

A keen eye and attention to detail is necessary for a fruitful bird watching expedition. Calmly scan the trees and bushes for flashes of movement or color and be sure to not make too much noise as you go.

Go digital
Even the most seasoned bird watchers use guide books to learn more about different species, migratory patterns and other helpful information. Wild Birds reported that this is especially helpful for knowing what you can expect to find in a given area or season.

Nowadays, e-readers and smartphones are replacing traditional guide books, and there are countless digital tools for bird watching. Watch short videos, look at range maps and uncover more about what species live in your area. As you find out more, your experience will only become richer. 

Learn some calls
Sometimes you can hear a bird long before you spot it. For that reason, knowing a few basic bird calls will help you identify species. Many of the most famous types of feathered forest dweller have unique calls. For example, the bard owl is known for a hoot that sounds a bit like "who cooks for you," while the vocalization of the loon is equally unmistakable.

Use an app or online tool to listen to a few calls before you head out. The Audubon Society reported that many bird watching groups post local call libraries on the internet.These can change by region and season, so be sure to do a bit of research on your way to becoming an expert.

Keep a journal
Many bird watching enthusiasts like to write down their sightings throughout the year, and you may find keeping a journal to be quite rewarding. Record any interesting sightings you have or behavior you see. Use your Pro Trek PRG600YB-3 watch with compass to see if you can find any patterns in where you find certain species, and see if you can use subtle differences to identify specific individuals.

Stay home
Birds are a remarkably successful group of animals and can be found from the sunny shores of Florida to the frozen tundra of Alaska and everywhere in between. Fortunately, you need not travel far to see these wonderful creatures.

Your backyard can be an excellent place to spot birds. Gardens and lawns are excellent habitat for insects, and as a result many species of birds do well right next to human houses. Even in cities, hawks, pigeons and other species can be quite common. Use a bird feeder to entice feathered visitors and calmly wait. Odds are you can see a number of types of birds from the comfort of your own home.