Popular Bird Watching Activities

Bird watching is so much more than just looking at birds.

Bird watching can be a full family activity.

Bird watching can be a great way to relax and take your mind off the stresses of life while learning about the animals that fly by all the time. If you pay close enough attention, birds have striking colors, unique songs and interesting behaviors that change with the time of day, the individual bird and, of course, the season. The more you watch, the more you learn.

For many, bird watching seems like an idle activity. In reality, different activities can help you get the most out of the time you have to spend, and it can be very stimulating for your body and mind.

Backyard Bird Watching Activities For You & Your Kids

If you only have a few hours to spend watching birds, consider staying in your own backyard. There are plenty of birds around, and it’s a great way to learn a little more about your local ecosystem. Buying a bird guide for your area and using it to identify the birds you see can be a great introduction. If you have kids, it’s an engaging way to start introducing them to nature — even if they’re a little older.

A journal can help keep all your bird watching notes organized. 
Bird/Nick Lee/CC BY 2.0
A journal can help keep all your bird watching notes organized.

Here are other popular bird-watching activities:

  • Keep a sketchbook: Draw the birds you see! Include any details that interest you. Some people enjoy making scientific diagrams, which can be a great way to collect information. It’s okay if you’re more of an artistic type, too. This is your time! And when you’re done, whether your illustrations are more technical or artistic, you have some beautiful new art to display.

    Not sure where to start with drawing? Audubon offers some tips in their article “How To Draw a Bird

    “… focus on … individual feathers or markings, perhaps an eye, maybe the patterns of light and dark from plumage and shadows. Understanding birds’s general anatomy … will help you make sense of your observations. But the key to field sketching is to draw what you see, and not what you think should be there.”

  • Take photos: A camera can be your new best bird watching friend. Birds can be really challenging subjects since they move fast and can be really small, so you’ll eventually want to upgrade to some specialty lenses. However, it can also be a really great way to hone your skills, and photography can also make striking art you can be proud to show off. Want to get started? Here are 25 tips for bird photographers here.
  • Keep a journal! You can include all kinds of information about how many birds you see, which species they are, and what they’re doing. Keep track of the time of year and the time of day to see if you can find any patters, and make sure to get as much as you can about what they eat, which places they like to hang out, and watch for different species to do different things. As a bonus, you can always add sketches or specimens to your journal to make your observations more complete. 

If taking even a few hours out of your day sounds overwhelming, pay attention to the birds while you take care of chores. It can make the time go by faster, and you’ll notice things you haven’t noticed before. Whether you’re gardening, walking the dog, or taking care of maintenance on your house, there will be birds around you, so next time you’re outside, take a moment to look around!

Go Bird Watching Around Your Home & Local Area

This is a great opportunity to unite your bird-watching hobby with a chance to explore your area and even get some exercise. Try going to a local park to see if the birds there are any different from the birds near your home. If they are, see if you can identify new species or figure out what’s attracting the different types.

If your passion is aquatic birds, take a day and go kayaking — some rental companies even offer bird-watching tours and they can tell you all about the local birds. And while kayaking is great exercise, it can be hard work, too! Use the birds you see as a chance to rest, and don’t forget to bring binoculars so you can get a good eye on birds farther away.

If you thrive on thinner air, head up into the mountains and take a hike. You’ll undoubtedly encounter birds you never expected to see. Be sure to pack plenty of water, binoculars, a snack, and your favorite way of recording and learning about the birds you see while you’re out. If hiking is really your jam, plan a few different hikes in different types of terrain — the variety is the best way to see as many different types of birds as possible.

Puffins are surprisingly colorful shorebirds of the northern Atlantic. 
Puffins are surprisingly colorful shorebirds of the northern Atlantic.

Go To A Bird-Watching Destination

Go on a trip! A vacation is great any time of year, and you can find birds everywhere. If your travel is strictly for the birds, some places and times of year are better than others. If you love tropical birds, heading south is the obvious choice. Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, and a lot of that comes from the brightly colored birds that thrive there.

Tropical birds are flashy, but did you know that Iceland attracts birders from all over the world, too? Ever summer, about 100,000 puffins nest in the cliffs over the Atlantic Ocean. Every summer, Icelanders even throw a huge festival to celebrate their arrival. (If you’re feeling really adventurous, the festival affords the chance to try smoked puffin meat.) As a bonus, the northern lights are often visible in the summer, so when all the birds bed down for the night, turn your gaze upward — you might just get lucky.

No matter how much time you have at your disposal, bird watching can be a fantastic way to ground yourself and take some time to get away from it all. It can also be a gateway to honing other skills, no matter what your other passions, hobbies and interests might be, there is probably a way to enhance your bird watching time through those activities — or those activates through bird watching. There are ways to enjoy the birds around you any time of year with any amount of time. Even taking a peek out the window while washing dishes can be a way to get a moment of bird watching in.

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Birds · Lifestyle