Imagine being able to walk through any habitat and instantly know which bird species are there, even if you can’t see them?

Birding by ear is a skill that anyone can learn with enough practice and persistence.

If you’re a completely novice birder, you can simply start by paying close attention to the sounds of the birds in your very own yard.

There might be three or four species, each with their own unique calls and sounds. Some species make just a small number of sounds or variations in calls, while others have a vast repertoire of calls, songs, sounds, and even mimicking the sounds of other birds (which can really make things tricky, at first).

Even if you’ve only recently decided to take up birding as a more serious hobby, you’re very likely to already have some familiarity to the more common birds in your local area. Even people with no interest in birds (so they say) can recognize the most common “daily” birds that might be heard in the background of everyday life.

Obviously, these will vary depending on the country you live in, and the region you live.

Bird sounds are one of the great comforts of being home for many people, and when you move to or visit a far away place where there are no bird calls that are familiar to you, things can feel very alien indeed. When your understanding and recognition of bird calls grows over time, your bird world opens up more and you’ll start to seek out different habitats and locations to discover even more new and fascinating species and their calls.

To hone your birding ear, you need to be consistent. Just like a new piano player must practice regularly in order to enhance skills and not lose the instinctive playing skills that have been built up over time, so too must a birder attempt to spend as much time as possible with the birds so that their songs and sounds become second nature to you.

Eventually, you’ll have a memory bank of dozens of bird calls that you can recall instantly without a thought.

If you’re just starting out, this can seem an almost impossible thing to imagine happening – but happen it will! We all start somewhere and unlike learning a musical instrument, you won’t have to wait years and years before you can consider yourself a proficient bird call identifier.

There is a daunting conundrum that new birders are faced with when it comes to learning bird calls: how can I learn which bird is calling if I can’t see the bird that’s making the call?

Kids love being outdoors, but too many spend much of their childhood cooped up inside in front of a screen or five. Not only is it unhealthy, but it also means the next generation and the one after that are not falling in love with the natural world and the wildlife around them; including birds.

Introducing kids of any age to birds, birding and the environment can only benefit everyone involved: including the birds. Some of these kids will become advocates for the conservation of birds in the future. Without them to speak for birds and to understand birds and their habitats, the future of birds will be dire.

And birding is just plain fun. Children love a challenge, and introducing challenges is a great way to get kids into bird watching. How many birds can they spot? How many species can they name? Which birds do they find throughout the year in different seasons? Teachers who plan bird related lessons or activities in school can give kids a great head start in becoming bird lovers as they develop their interest in class and outside the classroom, then take that home with them.

Kids birding
A group of children birdwatching
Bird watching for kids
Children and adults doing birding
Boy bird watching
Boy looking at birds through binoculars

What do kids need to get started with birdwatching?

As we know, birding is a free activity and you can do it with zero financial outlay and not even any consumables if you don’t want to. Books, binoculars, smart phones with apps, and cameras with telephoto lenses are all wonderful birding accessories – but they aren’t mandatory. Families who are on a budget can make birding a new activity that costs nothing but time (and perhaps some travel costs if you wish to go outside your local walking distance).

This can make it a challenge to entice children away from their technological and entertainment comforts like their console games, PC, tablet, television and whatever else they tend to amuse themselves with during the time you’d prefer them to be outdoors. Kids these days may feel alien walking around without holding some sort of device.

A small financial investment can help make things more exciting for kids, depending on their age. A good bird guide book is one of the best places to start. But if you or they really prefer technology instead, go for a good birding identification app where the kids can not only look at the birds, but hear their calls as well.

Birding – or birdwatching – is immensely popular in the United States. And the popularity of birding or interest in birds only increased during COVID as people were more confined to home and the local neighborhood. Watching birds is one of the few completely free and solitary activities people could do, and one that is continually variable and never boring. If there is any silver lining to the pandemic, perhaps it just could be that more people have developed a passion for birds in the US – leading to greater awareness of conservation and wildlife generally.

birdwatching in Alaska
Birdwatching in Alaska

But let’s talk more generally about birding in the United States and just how popular it is today.

Membership in Audobon Society groups around the country can provide a good indicator of the level of interest in birds in any particular area or state. While not every single person who joins Audubon as a paid member is necessarily a bird watcher or into birding – they may simply want to support conservation or enjoy specific member benefits – we can still gauge the level of interest in birds as a whole by looking at Audubon membership. For example, Mass Audubon states a membership and supporter community of 130,000.

There are more than 450 local Audobon chapters throughout the United States, 23 state programs and 41 Audubon centers.

Not all people who feed birds consider themselves as bird watchers (although most are certainly at least watching the birds who come to the feeder!). Likewise, many birdwatchers are not necessarily interested in backyard bird feeding. These two interests certainly loosely tie in with each other, and it is well known that backyard bird feeding is a huge industry in the United States – so while this doesn’t translate to the same level of interest in regular birdwatching, it does tell us that millions of people in the United States have some level of interest in wild birds; even if it is only those who visit their yard or property.

Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to get up close views of birds of prey in the backyard (and if you have a bird feeder, you’re probably glad of that fact).

The popularity of live streaming bird of prey, or raptor, web cams has been increasing rapidly in recent years thanks to technology becoming more affordable. Continue reading “Best Birds of Prey Live Streaming Cams – Worldwide”

Whether or not you enjoying feeding birds in your own yard, there’s no denying the joy and yes – addiction – that can come with watching live cameras not only fixed on wildlife in wild place but also within other people’s backyards and gardens. Not all of us have the time, energy, space, or indeed the desire to set up our own backyard bird feeders, so why not tune in to some of many “feeder cams” that more and more people are sharing with the world? Continue reading “12 Best Bird Feeder Cams to Watch in North America”

So many of us have relished the joy of nature during this ongoing coronavirus situation.

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where birds come to you, or you can visit bird watching sites close by, you might be feeling a newfound or increased appreciation for birds and nature in general. For many of us, it’s what is getting us through the stress and upheaval of normal life during this time. Continue reading “COVID-19 Bird Watching – Birding During Coronavirus”

Bluebirds using a nesting box

Placing an artificial nest box or birdhouse in your garden to attract a specific species to – in our case Bluebirds – means being aware of what the birds look for in a nesting site and replicating as close as possible the type of conditions and structure that they nest in out in the wild. Continue reading “Which Birdhouse for Bluebirds? Guide To Bluebird Nest Boxes in Your Backyard”

Audubon Cedar Bat Shelter

We’re not only about birds here at FeatheredFeeders. Any wildlife you’re lucky enough to have in your backyard or property needs to be protected and cherished.

Bats are fascinating animals and if you’re lucky enough to have them living near you, you can provide a home for them at little cost. This is a great way to get kids interested in the local wildlife besides birds; especially as bats are generally animals that are rather cryptic and not often seen or noticed by anyone but the most curious naturalist.

Sure, bats won’t be as visible to you as the birds that come into your backyard. But you can feel good knowing that you’re doing your part to help conserve and protect these most important species.

Bat shelters are a novel way of providing much needed protection to bats. In this review we focus on the Audubon Bat Shelter which is large enough to give shelter to 20 bats.

Not many products are hand crafted in the USA these days, but this bat shelter from Audubon is. So you know it’s not going to be a cheaply made, low quality construction with a short life. This thing is solid and clearly built to last.

It’s made of reforested red cedar and obviously has a very natural, appealing look to it. It is weather resistent and designed to last long term.

The inscribed Audubon logo and bat graphic is a nice touch. Seeing the shelter up close, you could imagine something handcrafted like this costing twice as much as it does.

You don’t have to assemble the house because it comes all ready to go. All you need to do is find a great location, then decide where you’re going to mount it to give your local bats the best chance of finding their new shelter.

What bats will use this bat house?

Research has shown that many bat species will use bat shelter boxes like the Audubon Cedar shelter. The species you could get in your box will obviously depend on where you live. If you live in the range of any of these bat species then you’re in lucky:

  • Big brown bat
  • Cave bat
  • Eastern pipistrelle bat
  • Evening bat
  • Little brown bat
  • Mexican free-tailed bat
  • Northern long-eared bat
  • Pallid bat
  • Pallas’ mastiff bat
  • Rafinesque’s big-eared bat
  • Southeastern bat
  • Yuma bat
Northern Long-eared Bat
Northern Long-eared Bat – one of the bat species that could use your bat shelter

If you need something with a larger capacity, consider the Cedar Bat Chalet (25 bats) or Cedar Bat Cottage (up to 40 bats)

The landing area and interior of this bat shelter has been made grooved and rough so that bats can easily land and hold on when roosting.

It can be pole mounted if you want and the recommended mounting location for the shelter is between at least 10 feet up from the ground, ideally on a tree or on a high building such as a barn – natural locations where bats will go to find a roosting spot. Putting the bat box near water, such as a pond or stream, is ideal since bats are attracted to these water sources.

Bat Conservation International has a useful guide for installing bat houses on a building, which you can check out here.

There are holes already drilled in the box to make it easy to mount using these default holes, or you can take your own drill to it if you need a more custom solution; depending where you want to put the bat house. Also included are screws and a bracket ready for mounting on a pole, building or tree.

Benefits of having a bat shelter at home

  • Provide habitat for bats
  • Free pest control – bats catch and eat mosquitoes and other flying insects, preventing them from getting into your house. A single bat can consume hundreds of insects per hour
  • Bats also take care of insects that attack your plants and vegetable garden, plus provide a free pollinator service as bats are excellent pollinators

How will you know if bats are starting to use the shelter?

In the early stages you might find it difficult to be sure that there are any bats making use of your bat house. But the subtle first signs of bat guano (droppings) underneath plus the more obvious (and beautiful) view of bats leaving the shelter at sunset will alert you to the fact that your bat shelter is being used and valued by the local bats.

Tips for using this bat shelter:

  • When mounting the bat house, keep in mind whether it will be possible for squirrels and other wildlife to access it. You want to prevent this happening. While squirrels are unable to secure themselves inside the box (they might however like to sit on top of it), their presence could scare off the bats. The same goes for cats and any other animals that can climb. This is particularly an issue if you are going to mount the bat box to a tree. If you think this could be a risk where you are, consider using a pole instead and place it away from trees.
  • Don’t disturb the bats: Once on or more bats starts to use the box, simply leave them alone. Disrupting the colony or disturbing the bats in any way is likely to make them leave and never return. It could also cause them to abandon their young.
  • If you’re not having any luck with bats using the box, consider your positioning. Make sure the bat house is facing ideally in a south east to southern direction. It should get at least several hours of sun every morning, but be protected from direct wind and from harsh summer sun in hotter climates.
    Have patience. It can take some time for the bats to find the habitat you’ve provided, but when they do, they’ll remember where it is.
  • If you already know there are bats around, try and locate your shelter nearby.

Dealing with insects using the bat house

If you find that wasps or another swarming insect colony starts taking an interest in your bat shelter by starting to set up a nest, some people have shared their methods of warding off the insects including with a spray of water with a hose.

You’ll need to be vigilant though and deal with it in the beginning to avoid having to deal with angry stinging insects. Note that using any sort of chemicals to deter insects is definitely not recommended by us; for the sake of the bats, the insects themselves (who do have a right to live and find their own home somewhere), and for the environment at large.

We’d love to hear of any novel ideas people have of deterring or removing insects from bat houses, so share them in the comments below if you’ve experienced this!

Image credits:
Northern Long-eared Bat: USDAgov