By Pat Pepper
You can certainly enjoy watching birds without knowing their proper names. Many Southerners still call Cardinals “redbirds,” and their enjoyment of this beautiful bird isn’t diminished at all. With that being said, there is an added level to our enjoyment when we possess the American Birding Association’s nomenclature. We can then use “birdspeak” when we talk or read about birds.
Learning the proper names for birds, however, does involve an investment of money and time.
Because you cannot get too close to wild birds, you must view them from afar. In order to properly identify a bird, you need to get as many markings (color, shape, wing bars, etc.) as you can. When shopping for binoculars, buy the best that you can afford. Most birders find that 8 or 10×42 binoculars work best, especially when birding for several hours outdoors. The 8, 10 refers to magnification, and the 42 is the objective lens diameter in millimeters. Do not get less than 42 as you will not have enough light to see the bird. The following link may be helpful in choosing binoculars:
- Bird Guides
Bird guides help you identify birds. They come in both print and digital formats. The digital formats seem to be winning out over the books today because they contain a lot of information that can be stored compactly on your phone, and they can play bird sounds. Two of the most popular digital guides are iBirdPro and Sibley. They cost around $20. If you are a beginner in birding, I highly recommend a digital guide, Merlin by Cornell Labs. It is a free download, which is very user-friendly, and helps you ID birds that you are seeing.
- Optional Expenses
- Bird Feeder
Putting up a bird feeder and trying to identify the birds that come to it is an excellent way to start your birding adventure. I recommend the tubular feeders that have a weight controller in them. The factory pre-sets the weight to keep out squirrels and larger birds that will quickly eat all your seed. Ask your local bird store for help in choosing your seed. You can even buy No-Mess seed, which will discourage rodents. Suet feeders are a nice addition to seed as they attract woodpeckers.
- Bird Bath
Birds love water both to drink and bathe in. You will need to commit to keeping it clean and change it often.
- At Home
Spend as much or as little time as you like studying the birds at your feeder or in your yard.
- On Trails
Spend a few hours on a trail in your area. There are many in local parks and green spaces.
Check out eBird – Discover a new world of birding… to find birding hotspots in your state, country, and foreign locations.
- Local Audubon
One of the best places for information on local bird news, guided walks, and classes is your local Audubon.
On Feb.19, 2022, I will be at Smith- Gilbert Gardens to help lead bird walks for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Birds of Canada. The sightings we gather will be submitted to birdcount.org. This is a very beneficial citizen science project that helps these organizations protect our birds not only for our enjoyment but also for the benefit of all mankind.
Birds are essential as pollinators and seed dispersers. They also feed on insects, rodents, and other small animals, which would be harmful to humans if their numbers were left unchecked.
If you can’t join our bird walk, then spend as little as fifteen minutes looking for birds in your yard or a nearby park then submit your sightings to Pro Tips to Make Data Entry a Breeze – Great Backyard Bird Count
Hope to see you at SGG on Feb. 19, 2022!!