Birding Basics

birding | paula bonelli | midwest region |

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You don’t need a backpack full of expensive gadgets to get started in birding. My husband enjoy watching birds in our backyard, as well as on our hikes in local State Parks. We carry a small backpack with us, but it has more things for us than for birding!

We carry a good, but not too expensive, pair of binoculars (about $50), a camera and sometimes a field guide. It’s really all you need. Trust me, if you get hung up on gear, you’ll find yourself spending more time figuring it out and you’ll miss the birds! One other thing I am going to start carrying is a small notebook. That way if I’m unable to capture the moment with a picture, I can make notes for later.

The best thing about birding is it forces you to use your eyes and ears more intently. Usually we hear a bird long before we see it. And sometimes, we hear but don’t see, like the barred owl that serenaded us each evening during a September camping trip. Boy, I sure would’ve loved to have seen that noisy fella. :-)

Basic Bird ID – use these tips by eNature to help you identify a bird:

  • Look at the size and shape
  • Note features and field marks
  • Observe behavior
  • What type of habitat?
  • Listen to their call(s)
  • What season is it?
  • Where did you see it?

Want to get updates on birds in your region? Check out their Regional Birder section to find out more about birds in your region, when they’ll arrive, how to attract them, Spring Migration routes and much more.

Ways to prepare your backyard for winter birds:

  • Put out a couple of squirrel-proof feeders with your choice of suet, safflower, peanuts, and sunflower seeds (avoid the typical bird food mix; too much junk).
  • Autumn cleanup is a great time to create brush piles so the birds can take cover from harsh winter winds.
  • Put out a heated birdbath

What winter birds are you seeing? Our juncos have returned and we continue to see plenty of chickadee, northern cardinal and woodpecker activity.

Read much more about birding from our birding expert, George Harrison.

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