No matter how long you have been birding or how many species have been added to your life list, there is always room to improve your birding skills. As you become a better birder, you will get more enjoyment from every bird you see, and you will find yourself spreading your own wings further to get more involved in the entire birding community, helping preserve this hobby and share it with others.
1. Plan Your Birding
An unprepared birder won’t see as many species or learn as much about the birds they do see. If you know when, where and how to go birding, you’ll have more productive trips, whether it is just a walk around a favorite park or a dedicated trip to find a rare species.
2. Use Multiple Field Guides
One field guide is never enough for a great birder. Different guides offer different artwork and unique details, and the accompanying text will provide different clues for bird identification and to better appreciate each bird.
3. Study Birds Closely
4. Use Your Ears
Birds make a wide range of vocal and nonvocal sounds, and birding by ear in the field can help you locate and identify more species. As you grow more confident listening to birds, you will start to detect subtle differences in songs and calls that are part of birds’ rich vocabulary.
5. Attract Birds to You
While going out to see birds can be an amazing experience, even more amazing can be attracting the birds to you for close, personal interactions. A bird-friendly backyard can be visited by dozens of different species, giving you astonishing opportunities for detailed observation.
6. Study Bird Foods
Birds have different food preferences and eating habits, and the more you know about what different birds eat, the more you will be able to distinguish between them. Bill shapes, seasonal food choices, caching behavior and other factors all relate to eating and can teach you more about birds.
7. Learn Bird Behaviors
Birds do much more than fly, sing and eat, and the more you study bird behaviors, the more you can distinguish the subtleties that make each of the world’s 10,000 bird species unique. Behavior can be a clue to identification and will bring you closer to understanding every bird you see.
8. Read Birding Books
You could build an entire library with nothing but bird-related books, and those books can teach you subtle tricks and techniques that experts have developed. Furthermore, the best bird books will introduce you to species you may never have the chance to see in the wild.
9. Join a Birding Organization
Being part of a group of birders, whether it is a local birding club or a national or international organization, can bring you many opportunities to be a better birder, including field trips, conferences, lectures, workshops, exclusive publications and more.
10. Travel for Birding
While you can learn a lot from your local birds, you can be a better birder if you seek out new species in different locations. Whether you go to a birding festival, take a dedicated tour or just try to see birds on vacation, studying birds outside your home range will help you refine your birding skills.
11. Work to Protect Birds
The more you learn about birds and the better birder you become, the more you will want to help protect the unique species you see and help out every bird. Getting involved in bird conservation can raise your awareness of the threats birds face and help you become a more conscientious birder.
12. Add Another Bird-Related Hobby
Birding works well with other hobbies, including gardening (to design a bird-friendly landscape), woodworking (to build bird houses and feeders) and other crafts (to create bird-themed gifts to share). When you add another dimension to your hobby, you will quickly sharpen your birding skills in a new way.