Beginner's Guide to Watching Birds
Watching birds is fun any time of year, and they usually don't move too far away when people are nearby, like other wild animals do. Setting out a feeder is an easy way to get started since the birds come to you. During the fall and spring migrations, the variety of birds you will see increases as birds pass through on the way to their winter or summer habitats. You can also put out nest boxes or nesting materials, such as hair from your dog's brush or lint from the clothes dryer.
Most bird field guides have a section explaining how to look up birds quickly and easily. If you can't figure what kind of bird you see when you're outdoors, write down as much as you can in your field journal or take a photograph. Then, you can look it up when you're back inside.
9 Birding Basics
To identify birds more easily, ask yourself these questions. It will also help to get to know a few birds really well, and use that knowledge to compare birds you see to ones you already know.
How big is the bird?
What shape is it?
Are its wings pointed or rounded?
What shape is its bill?
Is it alone or in a flock?
What is it doing? Flying, perching, wading, hopping, swimming, walking, climbing?
What is its flight pattern? Straight? Up and down like a roller coaster?
Where is it? In an open area? In the woods? At a shoreline? In the water?
What are its field marks? Colors? Stripes? Patterns? Patches?
Finding Feathered Friends
You can find birds almost anywhere, from the cities to the countryside. What you find depends upon where you are. Environmental education centers and parks around the state are wonderful places to start watching birds. If you want to encourage birds to visit your home, set up a bird feeder or just scatter some birdseed on the ground. Within a few days the birds will find the seeds and may become regular visitors. (NOTE: If you are in an area with bears, only feed the birds in the winter. Birdfeeders may attract bears when they are active.)
Across New York State there are special places known as Bird Conservation Areas (BCAs). They are created to protect and enhance bird populations and their habitats on State lands and waters. To learn more about BCAs, including which ones are near you visit the DEC webpage which lists all of the states BCA's.