Viewing wildlife can be thrilling. Spotting a bright painted bunting at a feeder, seeing an osprey catch a fish, watching shorebirds forage on the beach or glimpsing an elusive warbler are memorable moments. Spending time outdoors and observing nature enriches our lives and enhances our understanding of the world around us.
Are you interested in birding but don’t know where to start? Here are some tips. For more, the National Audubon Society offers an excellent guide.
To enhance your birding experience, learn the habitats and songs of various birds. Sound can be as important as sight in identifying species. Becoming familiar with preferred habitats, as well as migration and seasonality, will help you know when and where you are most likely to see species.
It is also important that wildlife viewing is done in a way that doesn’t harm or stress the animals, plants or habitats. Stay on marked trails. Limit the use of recordings and other audio methods to attract birds. Be cautious around nesting, feeding and roosting sites. And always respect wildlife, the environment and fellow wildlife viewers. Please review and follow the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics.
Binoculars are essential. A quality pair can reduce eyestrain and increase your ability to observe and identify birds. How to choose binoculars.
The greater magnification provided by a spotting scope takes viewing opportunities to the next level. Usually mounted on a tripod, scopes are useful for spotting and identifying distant shorebirds, birding in open country or viewing a far-off nest. Spotting scopes guide.
Field guides, whether books or apps, are the primary source of information for bird identification. Choosing the right guide and becoming familiar with it is key to improving your birding experience. Select one based on the region you will be birding in and learn the species in that area. Guides can be photo- or illustration-based.
Go Outdoors Georgia App (Georgia DNR)
This free on-the-go guide will help you explore trail sites across the state.
Merlin Bird ID (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Free, instant bird ID help for 5,500+ birds for North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
The Audubon Bird Guide is a free and complete field guide to over 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket.
The Sibley Guide to Birds—the most popular, most comprehensive, and fastest-selling printed field guide to North American birds—is available in digital form as an app for several mobile phone platforms.
You can record bird species you have seen via a checklist and eBird. The Georgia Ornithological Society offers a checklist of all Georgia birds. Rare bird sightings can be reported on eBird or the Georgia Birders Online listserv.