Bird watching is a rather low key, but thoroughly enjoyable hobby that is practiced all around the United States and in many other countries as well. Bird watchers venture out into natural areas to spot new and interesting birds that they haven't seen before. They may start out in places close to home, such as the backyard or a bird sanctuary, or venture out to more remote regions. On the whole, bird watching is a peaceful, relaxing activity that can also be quite exciting and educational. Bird watching not only teaches us about birds, but also about nature, habitats, and conservation.
In the United States alone, there are approximately 51.3 million dedicated bird watchers. It is fairly easy to start out since only a few basic supplies are required. Most new bird watchers initially find it a little tricky, as birds can easily be spooked and fly off. With a bit of practice however, people quickly learn how to stay quiet and concealed so that the birds stay around for a longer time. Bird watching is easy enough that people of all ages and different walks of life can enjoy it. Bird watching teams or clubs are a fun way to meet other people who also spend time appreciating these wonderful little creatures.
The basic equipment needed to start bird watching is quite minimal. A standard set normally includes a notepad, a published bird field guide, and a reliable pair of binoculars. The field guide is especially useful in helping to identify different species of birds, while the notepad is used to detail new sightings. Many bird watchers also like to photograph birds as part of their note-taking process. Photographing the birds helps with species identification, especially if the bird flies off after only a brief time. Since bird watching takes place outdoors, bird watchers need to be well prepared so that they can stay outside comfortably for extended periods of time. To do this, come prepared with appropriate clothing (including a hat, sunglasses and walking shoes), sunscreen, and mosquito repellent. Other items such as a cell phone, a map, a first aid kit, a compass, snacks and water are particularly useful for day journeys or trips into unknown areas.
The biggest questions that most new bird watchers have are where and when to start observing birds. It helps to have a guide or checklist that indicates which birds are prevalent in certain areas during each season. Although a backyard, public garden, or local bird sanctuary are good places to start, rarer birds can usually be found in forests and woods. When setting up in an area, be very quiet and be prepared to stay there for some time. Often patience is rewarded when a bird watcher stays in one place for a long time. This allows the birds to get used to the person being there and they eventually get over their skittishness. Always respect the birds, their habitats, and other creatures that make their homes there. Do not leave any trash behind or destroy plants, trees, or nests.
Bird watching is a fantastic way to introduce children to nature and help them build an appreciation for wildlife. After explaining the basic rules of bird watching, such as being quiet and respecting nature, parents can equip their children with a little notebook and a disposable camera (without flash). Organize a nature walk in the neighborhood to see how many birds the kids can manage to spot. Alternatively, help the children to set up a bird feeder in the backyard. In this way, they can actively observe birds right at home.