Guide to Birdwatching

Back to Bird Watching Clubs around Australia

 

The idea of standing around watching birds do whatever they do, does not appeal to many people. However, this very hobby is followed by millions of people around the world. The observation and study of different types of birds is called bird watching or birding. It is primarily a recreational activity that is simple and can be done anytime, anywhere, with little or no equipment.
About.com Guide: An extensive collection of useful information on bird watching
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: A site of Cornell University about the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds

The History of Bird watching

The interest in learning about birds through bird watching can be traced back to the eighteenth century, but it was not in the form that it is today. The observation of birds as it is done today began in the late 19th century. Around this time, official platforms like The Audubon Society in the US and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK came into being to stop the abuse of birds. The first book about bird watching was published in 1901 by Edmund Selous. Advancements in the field of optics also helped promote bird watching as a hobby.
Great Bird watching Today: This site provides interesting and useful information on different aspects of bird watching
WhatBird: This is a search engine to identify the birds of North America. It uses a step-by-step approach to finding information as opposed to the "all at once" approach used by other sites
Wild Bird Watching: A very good source of information about the feeding, nesting, and mating habits of backyard birds together with bird videos for many of the popular backyard birds
Fatbirder: An excellent web resource about birds, birding & bird watching for birders

Let's Go Bird Watching

Bird watching is perhaps one of the most convenient hobbies and doesn't require much hassle and preparation.
Equipment needed

The primary equipment needed for bird watching is a pair of good eyes. To make this hobby more meaningful and to make better observations, using a pair of binoculars would be a good idea and a notebook or journal can help record the observations. You do not need a very sophisticated binocular for this purpose; binoculars with a good field of view and a magnification of seven to ten times, with a 30mm or 40mm object lens would suffice. A field guide is also necessary; this is a book with pictures of birds and other information to help identify them. Remember to wear clothing that would help you blend in with the environment!
A Home for Wild Birds: Useful information about the basics of bird watching

Bird watching techniques
There are various bird watching techniques but the most commonly used techniques include slowly and quietly walking in the area so that when you come across birds they don't get scared. Another technique involves sitting in a concealed position and patiently waiting for the birds. Often birds appear in flocks and cause a lot of hustle and bustle which makes it difficult to take notes. In such situations, an audio recording device can be very useful to record notes. When there are large numbers of birds around, counting them can be difficult so take a section of the flock and count them and then multiply by the number of such sections or you can also try to simply estimate the number of birds.
Making observations
The most important part of bird watching is recording the observations; otherwise, it would just be some fun with no value. It is necessary to record the observations accurately so those can be referenced later. Some of the necessary things to be recorded are:

  • Location, weather, time and date
  • Description of the site (habitat)
  • Detailed description of birds including size, shape, color and any other identifying marks or patterns
  • Activities of the bird such as sounds, feeding behavior, flight pattern, gait, etc.

TLC: Bird watching information for kids together with interesting projects presented by The Learning Channel
West Virginia University: This site discusses how people with disabilities can also enjoy bird watching
Bird Studies Canada: An excellent site about bird watchers in Canada
Bird watching.com: This site provides lots of useful information about equipment for beginners and experts

Useful Tips for Bird watching

  • Watch the bird: It can be very tempting to just pull out the notebook and start writing down your observations as soon as you spot a bird. But it is better to just concentrate on observing the bird for some time so that you can absorb the information. If you get too caught up in writing, you will miss the real fun of watching the birds and birds may just fly away while you are writing.
  • Observe how the bird looks: One of the most important identifying aspects of all creatures is their face. So look closely and see the different facial features like eyes, ears, beak, colors, designs, head and neck.
  • Body features details: Now observe the whole body to see all the details like color, wing shape, tails, belly and any special markings or other features.
  • Pay attention to the sounds: Sometimes people get too caught up in watching the birds and forget about other important aspects such as listening to bird calls and the sounds they make. Bird calls and sounds are an important part of their identification and these should not be overlooked.
  • Feeding Habits: Observe the feeding patterns including what it eats, how it eats, when it eats.
  • Assess the size and shape: Size and shape are among the attributes that often require estimations. One method of estimating the size of a bird is to compare it with another known bird so that you can note down a close approximation of the size. Posture and stance are also important identifying factors that help in remembering the birds.
  • Legs: See what kind of legs the bird has. Are the legs short or long? What do the feet look like?
  • How does it walk and fly: Walk matters, even for a bird, so pay attention to how it walks and hops. Does it taxi before flying? How is the tail? Does the bird hold its tail up or it does it flow freely? What is the flight pattern?
  • Habitat, climate and location: It is important to correctly record the location where the bird is found, what is the habitat like and how is the climate there? These observations are normally easy to remember and may not require writing down immediately.
  • Some general tips include:
    • Keep a good field guide to learn about birds and also for ready reference
    • Learn as much as possible about the habitat in which you are going to watch the birds
    • Be nice to the birds and do not try to harass or startle them
    • Try not to harm the environment around the bird such as touching the eggs or poking into their nests
    • When watching birds make sure you do not trespass into someone's property

Backyard Birds: Link to bird feeders for backyard bird watching. Also includes bird houses, bird baths, bird foods, etc.
Iowa Nature Mapping: An excellent source of information about the importance of birds, bird watching basics, bird monitoring, etc.
Bird watching magazine: Find all the latest bird news, expert binocular and scope tests, birding events local to you, and exclusive Bird Watching competitions
Birding.com: This site provides information about great birding hotspots and birding travel to backyard birding, bird identification, choosing binoculars, and bird species information
Chiff.com: Interesting and useful bird watching tips

Bird Watching Competitions from around the World
World Series of Birding : The World Series of Birding is considered to be the world's most famous birding competition.
Frasers Hill Malaysia: Home of Malaysia's premier bird-watching competition, Fraser's Hill International Bird Race
The Big Bird Race: WWF's longest-running flagship event
India BirdRaces: One of the leading bird-watching events in India
The Big Sit Birding Competition: The Big Sit birding competition involves sitting in a chair watching birds for a whole day.

Bird Watching Clubs By Region

 

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