How to Bird Watch
TO BIRDWATCH: Frustrated because you can't identify all the birds at your feeder,
in the woods, along the roadside, or at the beach? Here are some quick tips
for beginning birders.
How to Bird Watch
Be sure you have a decent pair of binoculars and have adjusted and practiced
Always locate a bird first with your naked eye. The field of view through binoculars
is much narrower, making it harder to search.
Consider colors a bonus. Except under the best of conditions, it is hard to
see feather colors accurately. Light reflection and shadows often distort, dull,
or exaggerate colors. Consider other factors first. If conditions are good,
consider color a bonus. Of course, there are species for which accurate color
determination is essential for accurate identification.
Size is helpful, but conditions can be misleading. A bird soaring overhead or
flying by may seem much larger or smaller than reality. A reference object is
helpful - a tree, fence post, telephone pole, etc.
Observe the shape or profile of the bird. A long-bill, long legs, or tufted
head immediately eliminates many possibilities.
Habitat is always a useful consideration. In the midst of a coniferous forest
you expect to see a different set of birds (avifauna) than you would on an ocean
shore or in a city park.
Note the behavior. Wading in shallow water, climbing a tree trunk, swimming,
diving through the air, emerging from a mud nest, or sitting on a fence post,
all narrow the choices down considerably.
and calls are excellent identification mechanisms and sometimes the only way
to identify a bird because some species can only be distinguished in the field
by their calls; and it is not uncommon to hear birds but not be able to find
them. This takes a lot more practice than learning visual characters. I find
it easiest to learn songs and calls if I am able to watch the bird singing or
Use a good field guide as they identify characteristics (field marks) most helpful
Finally, my most important recommendation for the beginning birdwatcher: go
out in the field with those folks who know the birds.