Published on September 1st, 2014 | by Backyards Made Better4
Are You A Backyard Birder?
The vast majority of birders (about 88 percent) are what’s known as “backyard birders,” meaning they primarily watch birds around their homes. While there are over 800 species of birds in North America, there are probably at least 100 species in your area, making your own backyard (or a local park or forest preserve) an ideal place to start.
If you intend to bird-watch in your backyard, invest in a bird feeder and a birdbath (and perhaps a birdhouse or two) to help attract different bird species. By offering different types of feed that appeal to different birds, you’ll be able to lure multiple species near your home.
Some birders take it a step further and construct brush piles in their backyard to provide extra habitat for birds, or plant certain flowers in their garden known to attract birds.
If you’re interested, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an online interactive mapping tool called YardMap to help you build bird habitats and welcome more birds into your own backyard.
Really, though, if you want to give birding a try, you don’t need much to get started. Part of the beauty of bird-watching is its simplicity, after all. Here are some tips to consider before you head out, though, including the few items that will be necessary.
1. Get a Pair of Binoculars
Binoculars can be pricey, so this may be the biggest investment for an amateur birder first starting out. Look for binoculars with a 7x or 8x magnification. Roof prisms are general preferable to porro prisms (but they are also more expensive).
Another factor to consider is their weight, since you’ll be wearing them around your neck much of the time. Another option is to borrow a pair until you’re sure birding is for you.
2. Obtain a Field Guide
A field guide is a book of birds that will be specific to your geographical region. While most experienced birders believe a hard-copy field guide is essential to have on hand, there are also apps you can put on your smartphone to help you identify birds. One such app is Merlin Bird ID, which identifies birds based on their size, markings, color, behaviors, and more. If you’re into technology, you can even bird-watch via Web cam!
3. Do Your Homework
Before you head out, you may want to browse through your field guide and get familiar with birds in your area. Study the birds’ markings, calls and habitats, as well as their locations at different times of the year, so you can identify them more quickly when you’re out in the field.
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