WildlifeSouth.com Birding

Getting Started with Birding - Birding Basics

Joe Kegley

Field Guide and Binoculars

Birding, or bird watching, is the observation of birds for recreation purposes and usually involves recording individual species observed in a journal or "life list". At a minimum, the date, location, and specific species name, are recorded. While this data is usually done for an individual's pleasure, some internet sites allow a person to upload their observations and the data can be later used for statistical analysis.

The goal of birding is varied for different individuals. For many, it is to check off a specific species on their "life list", a listing of species one has personally observed within their lifetime. For others the goal is simply the excitement and enjoyment they receive from observing birds and their behavior. Still others might strive to obtain sound recordings or photographs.

Many birders like to specialize on a certain "family" of birds, such as waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, or warblers. Regardless we all enjoy the hunt and the satisfaction of identifying specific bird species.

Birding is a great hobby: it gets you outdoors, usually involves exercise (walking), can be enjoyed alone or with a group, and it is relatively inexpensive to participate in. One can make it as simple as backyard birding with the naked eye, or as complex and expensive as traveling the world looking for particular rare species using high-tech equipment.

How do I get started:

From a birding basics standpoint, at a minimum you will need two tools, a field guide, and a pair of decent binoculars.

Field guides assist you in the identification of individual species. They are inexpensive, usually costing less than $20 and readily available from most book stores. In addition, you can also use internet sites such as Cornell's "All About Birds" to aid you in your study and identification.

Birding field guide reviews (for North America).

Unlike field guides, binoculars used for birding range in price from less than a $100 to more than a $1000. I personally own a pair of Nikon Monarch 8x42 binoculars that cost a little less than $300. They produce a bright sharp image and work well while wearing my glasses.

Choosing binoculars for birding.

If you want to elevate your knowledge and confidence quickly, the third most important tool (or action you can take) is hitting the trail with an experienced birder. I can personally attest to this. I have owned the most popular field guides for years, but until I started my association with an experienced birder, I was frequently lost in the maze of migrations, field marks, and vocalizations. If you don't have a birder friend, then join a local birding club or organization that has outings, such as a local Audubon Society organization.

Birding is a very rewarding endeavor, though certainly not the easiest. With patience and experience your satisfaction will increase.

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