For many seniors, bird-watching, or birding as it’s sometimes known, can be a fun hobby that allows them to feel a closer connection with nature, whether you’re in the countryside or the big city. Between the emotional and mental benefits, as well as the potential for physical exercise, bird-watching can offer real health benefits. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that over 45 million Americans took part in 2016. But it may seem difficult to get started if you don’t know how. With a little preparation, you can easily begin bird-watching like a pro in no time.
The first step toward becoming a bird-watcher, or a birder, is educating yourself on birds and the culture of birding. There is a highly developed community with its own jargon and groups. For example, not only can you be a bird-watcher, you can also be a chaser, which is a birder who travels in search of a rare bird that’s been reported. There’s also a generally agreed-upon code of ethics that are used to promote safety and respect for the wildlife, other birders, and the law.
Familiarizing yourself with birds can help you quickly know how to find out what bird you’re looking at.
Learning more about bird-watching will also make you a more effective birder. It’s true that you can simply head out into a field and stare at the sky, but you won’t be getting as much out of the hobby as you could. Specifically, familiarizing yourself with birds, at the very least species and basics identifiers, can help you quickly know how to find out what bird you’re looking at. To do this, we suggest either picking up a birding mobile app or a beginners birding book, which usually break down bird species into colors or general descriptors. Studying these a bit before you start can help. Joining a local bird-watching club can also help you get educated on the subject.
Stock Up on Equipment
Another helpful step when getting ready to bird-watch is to make sure your gear is in order. Most people can get away with the most basic of equipment, a good pair of binoculars and a birding guide. Many bird-watchers will pick up a good camera to document their find, since most keep what’s called a life list. This also combines bird-watching with another healthy hobby, photography.
Dress for the weather and make sure you have some good hiking boots to be safe.
If your birding trips are combined with hikes, you’ll also want to make sure you have the right clothes. Dress for the weather and make sure you have some good hiking boots to be safe. Alternatively, if you’re going to do most of your watching at home, you’ll likely want a birdfeeder or birdbath as a place that birds can congregate.
Find Your Birds
Once your gear is set, you’ll want to locate a birding spot. While you can do large areas or birding trails, when you’re first starting out, finding an excellent location is a good idea. This allows you to pick a location that’s comfortable and convenient. A good spot will have trees or greenery, a source of water, or food for birds. The National Park Service suggests picking a spot where two habitats meet, like a forest and a meadow. Once you’ve found your spot, be quiet and attentive. If you’re not sticking to one spot, instead hiking as you look, paying close attention to your surroundings becomes even more important, since you may scare off birds before you spot them.
Birding from home is an acceptable option as long as you have the right habitat for birds.
Alternatively, you don’t even have to leave your home to go birding. As mentioned above, birding from home is an acceptable option as long as you have the right habitat for birds. An abundance of trees, birdbaths, or bird feeders can help attract birds to you. You may need to leave the house eventually to see a great variety of birds, but when you’re first starting out, at-home birding is a great way to begin your birding journey.
Track Your Birds
The American Birding Association (ABA) has a few birding lists available, including one free online pdf or state-specific field guides.
As we mentioned earlier, many birders keep a life list, which is where you track the birds and other wildlife that you’ve seen. The American Birding Association (ABA) has a few lists available, including one free online pdf or state-specific field guides. You can find more checklists on the ABA checklist site. You can also simply keep your own list, but this may require a bit more organization. Whatever list you’re using, in order for them to count, you need to follow a few guidelines. They need to be alive, wild, and positively identified. You also need to see them ethically, meaning you can’t be breaking any laws or have harmed or captured the bird. You can later submit your list to the ABA through their Listing Central and compare with other birders.
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As we can see, there are a lot of ways you can set yourself up for success in bird-watching, whether that’s in your backyard or on the trail. This makes birding perfect for nature-lovers of any physical ability and interest level. When you account for the health benefits, it makes bird-watching a worthwhile hobby to take up!