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What You Can Do

You don't have to be an expert to be a birder. Get started today!

Are you curious about birding but don’t know how to get involved? Do you have a child who’s interested in birds and wants to learn more?

Here are four easy steps you can take to get started in birding:

  1. Get some binoculars. First borrow, and then buy, a pair. If you are intent on buying your own ‘nocs, you should investigate and test them out first. Go to your local Audubon chapter, nature center or local wild birding store – they should have pairs to look through and feel (yes, how they feel in the hand is important) and be able to give other advice.

    Look for binoculars that are waterproof, focus easily, and have at least 8x magnification and a 30 to 42mm front lens (which dictates the light gathering capability). So when you see “8×32” or “10×42,” those will work well.

  2. Get a bird guide. And look through it before you go out for the first time. Don’t try to memorize all the birds — learn about bird families (swallows, raptors, warblers, flycatchers, herons, etc) to narrow your search down when you are out and about and birds are flying by. Birds are fast and often don’t stand still, so concentrate on these things:

  3. Take a walk. Once you’re at your local Audubon chapter, nature center or bird store (or on their web sites), there will probably be local bird walks posted. Go on one, go on many. Go at different times of the year to different places.

  4. Use the Internet. When you’re ready to strike out on your own, first scour the internet for great places to see lots of birds — your local Audubon website should have a list, and there are local listservs that give up-to-date information of what’s where. Find a spot close by that is appropriate for the time of year and go! There are also a plethora of birding apps out there, and I've narrowed down what I think are the most helpful. 

When there, take your time – walk slowly, quietly, look and LISTEN for birds (that will usually be your first hint they are there).

Soon you will be out at dawn to greet them as they wake to refuel. You will be pulling on rumpled clothes and stumbling out into the darkness to catch the dawn's chorus of bird songs, and you will be delighted at the sight of some of the same birds as last year, the year before that, or 10 years ago, as if it was your first glimpse. Your heart will skip a beat when you:

Hear that first “zu zu zu ZEE” of a Black-throated Blue Warbler, take in the cacophony of hoots, grunts and whistles that spill out of a Yellow-breasted Chat, or see the glowing orange throat of the Blackburnian Warbler, of which Scott Weidensaul, the poet-laureate of nature and birding, once said, “It’s a wonder it doesn’t set the tree afire.”

That’s it! Are you still at your computer? Why? Grab your ‘nocs and go!

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