Guide to Mindful Birdwatching

If you’re new to birdwatching, this guide will help you get acquainted with the essentials.

In your backyard, on your way to work, at the beach–birds are all around us. Looking to learn more about these feathered friends? Birdwatching can be can fulfilling pastime: observe wild birds in their natural habitat. Birds are admired by many people for their beauty and stunning calls. It’s no wonder birdwatching is becoming a popular pastime. This hobby is popular among people of all ages. It could be a great activity for anyone who has an interest in birds and it’s easy to get started. This guide will take you through the key aspects of birdwatching and prepare you to go out into the wild.


USFWS employee leads a birdwatching tour. Credit: George Gentry/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

What is birding?
Birding is the practice of observing birds in their natural environment. Birdwatchers are found all over the world observing a diverse range of birds in their native ecosystems. Many people do not realize that many bird “watchers” depend on sound more than sight since each bird has a distinctive call. Some people enjoy having a field guide that helps them identify the bird while others may choose to closely study a particular bird and observe specific behaviors. Having a notebook to document sightings is also common among enthusiasts.

Why get into birding?
Birdwatching first came about in the 20th century, and with the invention of binoculars the ability to observe faraway creatures became easier. People take up the hobby for a variety of reasons, including pure fascination with these beautiful creatures. Bird enthusiast and writer Jack Connor wrote an essay highlighting the activity’s appeal. He explained how its gives people something interesting to talk about, a reason to explore the surrounding world, and how it brings together like-minded people who can become lifelong friends.


The Critically Endangered Juan Fernandez Firecrown is threatened from invasive herbivores changing their habitat, invasive rats and feral cats. Credit: Island Conservation

How to start birding?
It’s relatively simple to start birdwatching. The most important tool is a set of binoculars or scope. A field guide can also help you identify local species. You can either go out into nature and find a place to observe birds or you can purchase a bird feeder to attract local species. Birdwatching apps are even available on your smart phone. Some apps include the ability to make realistic bird sounds that are helpful to birding newcomers. The next step to birding is getting in touch with fellow birders. Websites like will help you connect with local bird watchers and help keep you informed about bird clubs and outings. Even if you do decide to take a solo trip, seasoned enthusiasts can provide useful knowledge.

Thanks to the network of passionate birders around the world, finding the right spot to observe birds is not as difficult as it used to be. allows you to enter in your location to find “hotspots” for bird watching in your area.

What are the threats to birding?
Birding is a fun hobby that lets you watch birds in their natural habitats, but important to understand is that some of the birds being sought after could be at risk of extinction. As our population continues to grow, natural habitats are transformed and developed, leaving many species without a crucial part of their range. Another significant threat to birds are invasive species. Invasive bird species compete directly with native birds for food and nesting sites, and in so doing take important resources the native species needs. Invasive rats also pose a major threat to birds, eating eggs and young. In some habitats foxes and feral cats can be invasive predators and are driving some species to extinction. Even invasive plants can be another threat to birds. They replace native vegetation that local species need for food, shelter and nesting. Birding inspires a natural concern and love for native wildlife, and being aware of invasive species can help you protect the birds care for.

Featured photo: Diuca Finch on cactus on Isla Chañaral, Chile. Credit: Irene Espinosa/Island Conservation

Source: Hobby Help

About Noelle Duerwald

Noelle is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She fell in love with the ocean when she was a child on her grandpa's sailboat. Ever since she has had a passion for conservation and protecting endangered species. She is thrilled to support Island Conservation in its mission of preventing extinctions as a volunteer for the Communications and Science departments. In her free time Noelle enjoys cooking, hiking, and scuba diving in the kelp forests of Monterey Bay.

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