With nearly 10,000 bird species throughout the world, hundreds of birding festivals worldwide, a unique vocabulary of acronyms, specialized gear and more, it can be intimidating to get started birding, but taking the steps to be a birder can be easier than you think, no matter how many birds you've seen.
5 Steps to Get Started Birding
1. Get the Right Supplies
Unlike many hobbies, birding requires very little equipment to get started. A good pair of binoculars and a reasonably thorough field guide may be all casual birders need to enjoy their local birds, while more dedicated birders may prefer to have more expensive optics or several field guides. A notebook for recording observations and listing birds is also useful, and a hat and good walking shoes or hiking boots can make field birding more comfortable.
2. Review Familiar Birds
Once you have a field guide, read the introduction – most guides include basic identification tips and instructions on using the guide appropriately – and then take time to browse all the included birds. Many beginning birders are startled to learn they already know a dozen or more of their most common birds, and browsing the guide can help you know what other birds to watch for when you're in the field. This is also the first step for keeping a life list to track how you grow as a birder.
3. Go for a Walk
Familiarizing yourself with your local birds – those that are easily seen in your backyard, neighborhood or nearby park – can help you learn about your regular feathered visitors. Watch which types of habitats seem to have the most birds nearby, and learn to listen for bird sounds and songs that can help you begin birding by ear. Take the time to watch even the most familiar birds so you can learn their habits and be able to easily distinguish them from more uncommon birds.
4. Attract Birds to Your Backyard
Most dedicated birders enjoy not only finding birds in the field, but also attracting them for easy backyard birding. A bird-friendly landscape, appropriate bird feeders and a bird bath can quickly attract a diverse flock to your yard, letting you enjoy the birds without needing to leave home. Many birders specially develop their yards to attract their favorite species, such as hummingbirds, orioles or bluebirds.
5. Get Connected to Other Birders
Birding can be done privately, but it can be even more fun to share your love of birding with others. Join a local bird watching club or birders' group, and consider joining national and international organizations that work not only to promote birding, but also to protect and preserve wild birds for generations to come. The American Birding Association, National Audubon Society and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are some of the most familiar and most well regarded birding organizations to join. Traveling to birding festivals or taking a birding tour can be other excellent ways to connect with birders.
Birding is a fun, rewarding hobby that is easy to get started with. By starting small and focusing on local birds and the feathered friends that visit your backyard, you'll gradually build your birding expertise to feel confident venturing further and further into the field to see even more species and enjoy all the birds you find.