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Written by: Bill Herren
Bird-watching is a very rewarding hobby that can help you learn about your local wildlife. Bird-watchers use binoculars to seek out different species of birds and identify them based on size, color, shape, and feeding habits. They abide by a code of ethics that are in place to keep birds safe: It’s important that bird-watchers do not disturb habitats and remain unobtrusive when observing the behavior of birds. Keep reading to find out more about how to get started with bird-watching.
Choosing the Right Binoculars
Choosing the right binoculars is a very important part of successful bird-watching. The field of view should be wide enough to spot the bird and easily follow its movements. It’s also vital that the image is crystal-clear so you can see the bird’s distinguishing features. The binoculars must be able to focus quickly in order to provide a good view of the bird as it flies away and lands.
Finding the Birds
There are a number of resources to help you locate the best places to go birding. Ebird.org has maps featuring bird hot spots and recent sightings posted by fellow birding enthusiasts. There are also graphs and interactive maps that will help you determine the best places to see certain species. Take a look to see if any good spots are near you.
The Best Time to Bird-Watch
If you want to observe as many species as possible, it’s a great idea to go bird-watching at many different times throughout the day. Most birds are very active during the early morning, while early afternoon is a great time to spot hawks, falcons, and eagles. Late afternoon, evening, and nighttime is a great time to see many of the nocturnal species, like owls. The species you spot will vary depending on the season and your geographic area.
Learning to identify birds is fun and can be easy if you keep in mind the four keys of bird identification: size and shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. You can judge the size of new birds against birds you already know. After you’ve identified the size and shape, you can begin to observe what the bird eats, where it lives, and how it flies. Listening to the sounds the bird makes can also help to identify it.
It’s vital that bird-watchers respect birds and nature while observing different species. The American Birding Association has published a code of birding ethics to be followed by all watchers. You can do your part to protect the welfare of birds by respecting their boundaries, moving slowly, staying on trails, and sitting or crouching down to appear smaller and less threatening.
Many birding enthusiasts might enjoy joining a club to meet other like-minded people. Midwesterners can join the DuPage Birding Club, one of the biggest birding groups in Illinois. Birding Pal is another great resource; based on your location, you can easily connect with other bird-watchers and arrange a time to go birding together. You can also browse a list of local guides and find a professional to help you explore the area.
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