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”

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”

Whether you’re watching birds at your feeders from your kitchen window, or out in the wilderness trying to tick off new species – a quality pair of binoculars makes the experience so much more satisfying. It can mean the difference between getting a great look at a spectacular bird, or not even being able to see it at all.

If you’re on a budget for buying a new pair of binoculars, you will be pleased to know that you still have some fantastic options for a quality pair of bins. No, they won’t be as amazing as a $2000 Leica pair, but there are still some wonderful choices in the lower price range and we’ve done extensive resaerch to share the very best ones in this article. Hopefully it will help to make your decision an easier one, so you can get out there sooner spotting birds and wildlife of all sorts with your new binoculars.

What’s the problem with cheap binoculars?

A low cost (under $100 or so) pair of binoculars is clearly not going to get you something at the top of the range with the very best optics available. But we’ve come a long way, and what you can get for a small amount of money these days can be surprising. For many people, a quality pair of low cost binoculars can serve you very well indeed.

When looking at a pair of bins to buy in this price range, and especially at the very low end, you can run into some common problems which are good to be aware of so you can avoid them. The lowest quality binoculars can be appealing with thier price tag, but you might soon regret your purchase and wished you spent a little more. Here’s why:

Chromatic aberration – In simple terms, lower quality optics can cause an effect called chromatic aberration that results in a halo of sorts being visible around the objects you’re looking at. This is because the optics aren’t able to focus the color wavelengths perfectly, as is the case with higher quality products. The same effect is often seen in low cost digital camera lenses. When it comes to binoculars, it may not always show up as an issue, but any product that is known to have excessive chromatic aberration problems are ones that we will recommend against buying.

Distortions – this is another issue that you might or might not notice, depending how long you spend looking through your binoculars. In a nutshell, distorted optics can make the image appear curved either inwards or outwards as if you were looking at your reflection in a round reflective ball or spoon. Even good quality optics can suffer from mild distortion, but you’ll want to avoid models that are known to have bad distortion issues.

Build Quality – obviously a lower cost binocular is not going to be built like a tank. But with that said, well built binoculars can be bought for $100 or under nowadays – you just need to know which ones to avoid. If you plan on using your binoculars for long periods of time, you’ll want something that feels good in the hands, can be comfortably held up to your eyes, and can cope with bumps and mild adverse weather conditions.