Throughout 2020, social
distancing considerably limited our options for entertainment and hobbies.
Sheltering-in-place has definitely expanded our appreciation for nature and creative pastimes. It’s no
surprise that many people have turned to backyard birding as a free way to
relax, get fresh air, and add enjoyment to their days.
Backyard birding is an
activity suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities. It is also completely free and can be done anywhere. All you need
to do is go outside with the intention of watching the birds. You don’t even
need a backyard — a simple window bird feeder is a great way to attract birds
into view for you to enjoy.
With some time, a guide
book, and a method of tracking, such as a simple notebook, you can get
acquainted with the unique characteristics and habits of your local wildlife
all year round.
101: Beginning Your Backyard Birding Adventure
Before you begin your
new adventures in backyard birdwatching, it’s important to remember that
birdwatching is wildlife appreciation. While this hobby should be fun, it is
even more important that it is a pastime based on the preservation of the
species. Bird watching should never cause harm or stress to the birds, even in
your own backyard. Structures such as decks, gazebos, and porches offer you a
perch to observe without disrupting the birds.
Staying still and quiet
will also keep the birds calm and relaxed, making it more likely that they will
get close to you. Another technique for blending in is to wear camouflage or
muted colors — never white — while you are birding.
Use a Field Guide to Identify Your New
Part of the fun and
excitement of birding is identifying the birds you are watching. Ornithology,
the study of birds, involves observing characteristics of the bird as well as
the habitat in order to identify them.
Depending on where you
live, you may see up to 200 species of birds in your back yard. Keeping track
of what bird you see and when you see it will help you be more in tune with
nature and the world around you.
A field guide helps you
identify the birds in your back yard. You can use a book that is custom written
for the area you live in, with birds and details specific to your region, or
use an app. An app may provide helpful extra features such as AI recognitions
from a photograph of the bird, samples of the bird’s calls and songs, and
records of sightings from other watchers in your area. Audubon.org, Sibleyguides.com, and Merlin.allaboutbirds.org
are popular online field guide apps that have a multitude of
resources for learning about bird behavior, habitat, and conservation all in
Keep Records of
The Birds You Are Watching
Once you identify the
bird, it’s important to take notes. By noting the birds you see, when you see
them, and their behaviors, you can begin to anticipate migrations or other
patterns. Some serious birders keep a list of the birds they have identified
over their entire lifetime.
Spotting a bird can
happen at any time, so be ready to record what you see. The more birding you
do, the more you’ll become tuned in to your surroundings. Simply by practicing
birdwatching, you may begin to see things you never noticed before.
The two challenges of
birding are: staying patient and quiet enough to see the bird and properly
identifying the species. Because of this, birdwatching is a long game that
requires time, concentration, and mindfulness.
Birdwatching is not
competitive — there is no race to acquire the biggest list of birds. The fun of
getting to know your feathered friends is noticing how they are behaving or
singing, how that changes over the seasons, and when they come and go from your
Gearing Up for
We have already
established that you do not need any special gear for a satisfying adventure in
birding. But it is much more fun when you can see the action up close with
Binoculars are easy to
bring along with you and give you an up-close and personal look at the birds
you’re searching for. Binoculars help you enjoy the beauty of nature while
keeping your distance and letting it do its thing.
Like anything else,
binoculars range in price and function. The power, field of view, and focus
will vary depending on the quality of the binoculars. It’s important that the
binoculars are comfortable, easy to hold onto, and that they fit the user’s needs in every way. It’s helpful
if you can test them out before buying them. The
Audubon Binocular Guide is a great resource for selecting the perfect
pair of binoculars.
How to Attract
More Birds into Your Backyard
One of the best ways to
attract native birds to your backyard is to have lots of local
native plants and insects available. It makes sense that
birds would feel more at home and drawn to the natural habitat they were
intended to thrive in.
like birdbaths, bird feeders, and birdhouses are also great for attracting
local birds into your backyard. Be aware of the birds in your area before you
choose the style of birdhouse and type of birdseed you’re going to use, though.
These treats for your neighborhood flocks are not one-size-fits-all — choose
the appropriate types for the birds you want to attract.
A specialty garden or nature
supply store will offer the appropriate supplies and may have higher quality
products than a big-box retailer. Be sure to research how high up you should
mount the feeders and houses. Other mounting details to consider: which
direction to face and nearby wildlife to avoid
from Home If You Don’t Have a Back Yard
If you don’t have a
yard, no problem! You can create a sanctuary from your apartment window that’s
appealing for birds to visit. In fact, the higher up you are, the more likely
you are to spot migrations of birds of prey like eagles, falcons, and hawks as
they pass over your city.
If you are a little
closer to the ground, installing a window feeder or a bird feeder on your
balcony could make a pleasant pitstop for the birds in your neighborhood.
How to Build
Your Own Birdhouse
You could buy a
birdhouse, of course, but building one for yourself isn’t just rewarding — it’s
also fun! You can customize it for your space and for your visitors.
The first things you
will want to assess are the type of birds you’re making a house for and where
you want to install the birdhouse. The type of bird you are housing will
determine the style of the house and dictate where you can install it. How
large the house is, how big the holes are for entering the house, the depth and
height of it, and the material it’s made from are all very important things to
consider in order to attract the right bird.
Once you know this
information, you can choose the most appropriate place to mount, such as
hanging or fixed from a pole or tree. Be sure to consider how the elements will
impact the placement of the birdhouse.
Choosing a Free
DIY Bird House Plan
If you know the type of
bird you want to attract and what style of house you need to build, all that’s
left to do is decide what you want to build it out of and how elaborate you
want it to be.
You can build a fine
birdhouse out of recycled materials, like a shoe tree feeder or a teacup, and have a
unique feature in your backyard oasis. This is a fantastic activity to do with the kids — upcycling
old items and creating creature homes is a quality afternoon together filled
with lessons that will last a lifetime.
You can go for a functional-focused
birdhouse or maybe something
more decorative. Create the birdhouse of your dreams from scratch for a
personalized bird town in your own backyard.
a Hobby for a Lifetime of Enjoying Nature
Learning about the
world around you is something you do throughout your entire life. Slowing down
and noticing the natural world should be a daily practice. Birdwatching can be
enjoyed anywhere, at any time — you don’t even have to go outside. It’s a free
hobby that anyone can take part in. Stay safe, de-stress, and learn more about
your ecosystem at home with an adventure in birding today.
Across the United States, bird populations are declining due to decreases in availability of habitat. Recently, a team of scientists explored the value of the biggest chunk of green space found in cities -- residential yards --as wildlife habitat.