It’s easy to see why bird watching, or “birding”, is such a popular activity. Birds are beautiful to look at, enjoyable to listen to, and there is even evidence that birding can decrease feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress.
Another great thing about the hobby of birding is that you can do it anywhere, even at home. Now that we are staying home more than ever before, bird watching could be just the hobby to keep you busy and entertained.
Here’s what you need to know to begin observing these fascinating creatures in your own backyard.
Bird Watching Essentials
It’s actually really simple to begin bird watching because you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. You may even already own the birding essentials. You really only need these three things to have a great time observing birds.
- A good field guide. A field guide provides a comprehensive list of bird species, their physical characteristics, and their habitats. This can be a useful tool to help you identify your feathered visitors correctly and can also give you some interesting new information about them. The traditional format for a field guide is a book, however, there are also a number of apps that can help you identify birds by their appearance and by their song. Check out the Audubon Bird Guide App, eBird, Merlin Bird ID, or Song Sleuth.
- A Notepad. Whether you choose to use a notebook, a pad of paper, a journal, or an app, you’ll want to keep a list of the birds you observe and possibly make additional notes about your observations.
- Binoculars. A good pair of binoculars will help you get a closer look at the birds you are observing. It can also help you to notice subtle physical details that may be helpful in identifying different species. Check out this handy guide from the Audubon Society for correctly identifying birds using color, shape, and other characteristics.
How to Attract Birds to Your Yard
You’ll have a lot more fun bird watching if you attract a variety of birds to your yard. Making your yard bird-friendly is fairly simple. Any of the following suggestions will be sure to capture the attention of more than a few birds.
- Feed them. One feeder is a good start, but if you want to attract more birds, a variety of feeders should do the trick. Different styles of feeders appeal to different species of birds. In addition, some birds are more attracted to specific types of foods. Knowing what species of birds live near you will help you decide which foods to provide. This list is a good resource for finding the preferred foods of a number of species.
- Provide water features. Birds need to bathe, so a birdbath or other water feature is a good way to encourage them to visit your yard. Interestingly, they tend to prefer moving water to still water. This doesn’t mean that you need to install an elaborate waterscape. A simple fountain added to a basic pedestal birdbath is affordable, low maintenance, and likely to appeal to many passing birds.
- Grow native plants. Plants and shrubs can make your yard more beautiful, and bright colors can actually attract birds. Birds appreciate plants that add a safe place for them to perch while visiting your yard. As an added bonus, they may also attract insects that the birds enjoy eating or bloom with flowers, seeds, or berries that they can feast on at certain times of the year.
- Provide nesting boxes. A nesting box, or birdhouse, may encourage a family of birds to take up permanent residence in your yard. Early spring is the best time to install a birdhouse since this is when they are busy building nests.
If you don’t have a large yard, you can still add some features that birds will appreciate. Container gardens and birdbaths can be added to a deck, balcony, or patio. Even a simple feeder mounted outside your window will be inviting to a large number of birds.
With only a little preparation, you’ll be ready to start enjoying some cheerful, feathered company. Grab your binoculars, find a comfortable seat by the window, and see who decides to pop in!
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