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Studying the Basics: Where to Look
The first challenge to birding is figuring out where to find birds in the first place! Whether you live in the city, suburbs, country, mountains or seaside, knowing your habitat is key to predicting which feathered friends will be around.
Where are you? Like you, birds can be very selective in where they live; your surroundings may not supply them with the necessities of life. Be realistic about what you might find in your neighborhood, and when. A good bird guide is important. Look up birds that are known to occur in your region, and see if you can spot them. If you want to see a particular kind of bird, check out the maps to see if they occur near you, and read about the habitats in which they live. Remember, you probably won't see a marsh-living raptor on your city block. Some birds may use your region to rest during spring/fall migration, some may winter nearby, while others may breed there.
Where are they? Birds aren’t always out on a branch in full view; if it was that easy, this wouldn’t be a sport! Species can be found at many eye levels, from on the ground to in small shrubs, and from on tree trunks to atop skyscrapers. Once you know what birds live in your area and when, read about what type of habitat they prefer for feeding, breeding and rearing young. Having birdfeeders, birdhouses and birdbaths in your yard certainly makes it easier to see birds. Be sure to check out our “Bird Feeding Basics” section online to make sure your birds are being fed well and kept healthy, too.
What time is it? There are certain times of day when birds are more active than others, depending on the species. The best time to see most birds is usually earlier in the morning; The evening is less productive unless you are looking for nocturnal species, such as owls. Also pay attention to the season. Spring and fall migrations are a great time to spot birds that fly long distances and stopover in your neck of the woods for a rest.
© George Jameson
Where can I go for more birding? Those of us not lucky enough to live near a bird sanctuary have other options on hand. Look for nearby resources such as nature centers, sanctuaries, and local parks. Some will even have experts on site to you identify species and know which birds to look out for. For a list of Audubon centers in your area, enter your state in our Centers Locator. Or, follow established birding trails that highlight avian hotspots. Locally organized birding trips for local birding trails are also a great way to meet other birders in your area, compare notebooks, and share stories.
Now that you know where to find these intriguing creatures, it’s time to find out what to look for.