Everyone makes mistakes, but birding mistakes can cost a birder a good view, a proper identification or a new lifer. Avoid these top birding mistakes to see more birds, sharpen your birding skills and enjoy birds more in the field, preserving that enjoyment for years to come.
1. Not Planning Ahead
Birders who plan the times, locations and routes of their birding excursions have a better chance to see more birds and enjoy more habitats, maximizing the effectiveness of their birding. A planned trip can be a successful one, giving you a chance to better recognize the unexpected along the way.
2. Improper Dress
Appropriate clothes help camouflage a birder's presence in the field, allowing you to get closer to birds, therefore getting better views. Improper clothes, on the other hand, can scare birds away and be more uncomfortable, resulting in a shorter, less satisfying birding walk.
3. Misusing Optics
Whether you use birding binoculars or a spotting scope, optics are an indispensable tool for birding. The right optics provide a clear, true image of the birds, bringing them closer to your eyes for a crisp, detailed image and proper identification. Birders who forget or misuse their optics can miss outstanding views of birds they may never see again.
4. Forgetting a Field Guide
Even experienced birders should always carry a field guide as a quick reference for uncertain or unknown species they come across. Just one time of forgetting a field guide may mean a missed bird or an uncertain identification that you aren't comfortable recording, but if you always have a field guide on hand you can always confirm the birds you see.
5. Not Listening to Birds
Bird songs, calls and nonvocal sounds can all be vital clues for finding and identifying birds. Even if you aren't positive with identifications based on sound alone, listening can help you locate different species or recognize when more than one type of bird is in the vicinity, helping you refine your identification techniques so you don't miss any birds.
6. Identifying Birds Too Quickly
A rushed identification can be a wrong identification, even with the birds that are most familiar. Vagrant birds, tricky bird pairs and mixed flocks can all present challenges to birders, and slowing down to carefully study each bird you see can help you be confident about their identities. Take the time to look, listen and study the birds and you won't be embarrassed with a misidentification.
7. Not Birding in the Backyard
Even the most experienced birders can learn from studying birds in the backyard, and neglecting the most common backyard birds means a missed opportunity to learn more about bird behavior and the unique characteristics that make each species special. The more familiar you are with common birds, the easier you'll be able to tell when a newcomer arrives.
8. Not Traveling to Go Birding
You don't have to travel far to see new birds, but if you never visit a new habitat or unusual birding location, you miss opportunities to see more species or to watch familiar birds engaging in different behaviors. Birding travel can be as simple as trying a new local trail, park or preserve, or as complicated as choosing a birding tour or attending a distant birding festival, but any travel will expand your birding horizons.
9. Not Practicing Bird Conservation
Part of enjoying birds today is preserving them for tomorrow. By practicing bird conservation at home, in the field and worldwide, more birds will be available for you to enjoy and for you to share with others. The more you help conserve birds, the more enjoyment you will get from this hobby, knowing you're making a difference to keep every bird flying.
10. Not Refining Your Birding Skills
Every birder, even one with a lengthy life list who has been birding for decades, can learn more about the 10,000 bird species in the world. By reading the latest birding magazines, keeping up on new birding books or joining birding organizations, you can take advantage of all the latest news and developments