Birdwatching Basics

November 1, 2023

Believe it or not, birdwatching is having a moment. This old-school pastime previously considered boring, is actually trending! And thanks to technology, getting into it is easier – and maybe even more enjoyable – than ever. 

Even Emma Lovewell, a popular Peloton instructor, recently shared her love for birdwatching during one of her in-studio rides. An outdoor enthusiast, she – like many Gen Zers and Millennials – has discovered the joy in peeping, and identifying birds. 

Getting Started

Birdwatching, also known as “birding,” can be very enjoyable, and is really quite simple to get started. It can be as easy as walking slowly around your backyard, going for a nature walk, or simply looking out your window. It’s suitable for all ages, including children, as long as they try to use their “inside voices” even when exploring the outside world. 

People have been watching, tracking, and enjoying birds for centuries, but what’s making it so interesting these days is the technology that’s supporting the birdwatching craze. 

Tools and Tech 

True, binoculars are definitely helpful for birdwatchers, as they may help you spot little bitty birds perched on tree branches. There are many printed guides that help identify bird species by color, shape, or bird family. But some newer apps can be even more helpful. 

Merlin Bird ID: With the Merlin Bird Wizard, you can quickly and easily narrow down birds by size, color, and activity. Plus, its Sound ID can quickly identify birds by their sounds and calls. Never again will you wonder if you’re looking at a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker or an Orange-Crowned Warbler. 

Audubon Bird Guide: With this app, users can enter as much information as they can (size, color, the shape of its beak, etc.) and The Audubon Bird Guide will narrow down the likely results from a collection of over 800 bird species. It can also log a lifetime list of viewings, making it a great tool for lifelong bird watchers. 

Transformative Time 

For some, much like yoga or meditation, birdwatching can be life-altering. For example, one LCB Senior Living resident at Otter Creek in Middlebury, Vermont, chronicled his journey both birdwatching and living through a particularly challenging time in his life, in his book entitled My Big Year–A Search For Birds And Peace Of Mind. If you’d like to read more about Fred Pratt’s experience, check out this article, or purchase his book at The Vermont Book Shop

Embrace the Process 

Now that you’re set to enjoy birding, remember that patience is key to enjoying this hobby. As you watch and listen for rare birds, you may learn to enjoy the tranquility. A positive attitude goes a long way in birding. Try to appreciate the soft breezes, the fresh air, and the warm sunlight on your skin. 

When you’re ready to branch out (see what we did there?) and explore even more, the National Wildlife Refuge System features a full list of exciting, protected wildlife viewing areas. 

Just for Fun 

If you’re looking for a more “interactive” way to birdwatch, there’s always this kind of attracting different species in your own backyard. Drin, the self-proclaimed, “professional bird nerd” and her chickadee-attracting antics are pretty entertaining! Or you could follow along as Tom of @TeacherTomBirds introduces a “bird of the week” and some fun facts, such as what certain birds look like, sound like, and the geographic area in which they can be found. 

No matter how you go about it, remember to be respectful of your surroundings when birding or participating in any outdoor activity. Take care of your trash, disturb as little as possible, have fun, and be one with nature!