New To Birding?
If you’re brand new to birdwatching, or birding, there are many resources to help you get started. The Audubon Society (national and your local chapter) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are great places to start. Here is a great resource for beginners,
In a nutshell, when you're birding, you’ll SEE and/or HEAR a bird, and then attempt to IDENTIFY it. To see many birds, you’ll need a pair of binoculars. Thankfully, a cheap pair will do fine. To hear birds, you’ll only need your ears, though there are a few good phone apps out there that can make your life easier. Finally, to identify a bird, you’ll want a field guide (virtual or print)
For binoculars, the National Audubon Society recommends Nikon Prostaff 3S 8x42s (~$130) for beginning birders, but there are certainly cheaper and more expensive options to suit everyone’s taste and budget. 8x42 (power x lens diameter) are often considered best, but if you want to do some reading before you buy, here are a few good resources,
- How to Choose Your Binoculars (Audubon)
- The Audubon Guide to Buying Binoculars (Audubon)
- Finding The Best Binoculars For Birding (The Cornell Lab)
Once you get your binoculars, here is a quick video about how to use them for birding:
One definitely hears more birds than they see, so learning some calls and songs can be really helpful in identifying birds. This website lists birds by species and typically provides multiple recordings of each bird's vocalizations,
There are also a few apps out there that can record a bird's song and guess its identity.
Once you see or hear a bird, you’ll want to identify it to species. For that, you’ll need a field guide. You’ll want one that shows the geographic distribution for each bird species, a small map showing where you’ll find a particular bird in the summer, winter, and, if applicable, during migration. This is important because many birds look very similar. For example, look at the Carolina Chickadee and the Black-capped Chickadee. Although they look very similar, if you’re birdwatching in western Washington, you won’t have to puzzle over this too long, as we don’t have Carolina Chickadees here. Knowing which birds are typically in your area is the best first step towards identification, and distribution maps give you that information. For print field guides, we like:
- The Sibley Guide to Birds
- National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (currently 7th Edition)
Both of these guides have beautiful illustrations, basic bird information, and distribution maps. However, birds rarely look as clear in real life, so some birders also like getting a book with photographs. Here’s a nice choice for Washington state:
There are also some good apps and websites out there, accessible via your cell phone, many of which are free, including:
Once you've explored these birding resources, click here to learn about where we conduct our bird surveys.