Birding is a fun and easy way to spend time with family and friends, get outside, and learn about nature. But to ensure your birding adventure is a success, follow these simple tips. And, remember, you do not need to go anywhere far to have a great birding experience. A local park or nature center is a great place for both beginners and expert birders.
Time of Year
Winters in Nebraska can actually be a great time to go bird watching. Most trees do not have leaves making it easier to see the birds and often the wind is calmer (especially in the morning) making it easier to hear the birds. But, that said, anytime of year is great to go bird watching. In the spring, there are lots of migrating birds passing through Nebraska. Plus, in the spring months, birds are establishing their territories and building nests. In the summer, birds are active looking for food and caring for young. And, in the fall, birds are again migrating and feeding to put on weight for the winter months. Any time of year is a great time to go birding!
Time of Day
Often birds are most active first thing in the day. But, really, you can find birds any time of day.
Location. Location. Location.
Anywhere you have good habitat - food, water, shelter and space - you will find birds. That said, bird feeders are always a great place to look for birds. Make sure your feeders are well established (have been in the same location for several weeks) and are continually stocked with food.
Everything or Nothing.
What do you need to go birding? Your eyes and a little patience is all you need. But, for a better experience, try bringing along a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide. You might also want to bring a journal or notebook to record what birds you see on your adventure. And, a camera is always a good idea to record your experience. If you are headed out on a new trail, you should also bring a trail map. And, with any outdoor activity, be sure to dress for the weather, bring plenty of water and a snack if you will be out for a long time.
You head out on a fun afternoon of bird watching. You see plenty of birds!
But, you have no idea how to identify what you see.
Try these tips for correctly identifying the birds you see:
Look at Size.
Often birds are categorized into three groups: smaller than a robin, between a robin and a crow, and larger than a crow. By looking at the size, you can instantly begin narrowing down what birds you are seeing.
Check-out the Shape.
Is the bird large and stocky like an owl, Or, is it small and compact like a songbird. Looking at the general shape of the bird will help you determine the general group of birds - owls, hawks, seagulls, ducks, songbirds, etc. - to which your specific bird belongs.
Consider the Color
One of the first things you will notice about a bird - after its size and shape - is its color. Looking at the color of the bird is a quick way to narrow the field of potential birds you saw. If the bird you saw was yellow, it was definitely not a cardinal, owl or chickadee. It could, however be a goldfinch, warbler or meadowlark.
Make Note of Markings.
Most birds are not one solid color. They have unique characteristics which can help you identify exactly what bird you saw. For example, if you saw a yellow bird, it could be a goldfinch, warbler or meadowlark. But, if that yellow bird had a dark brown or black "V" on its chest, it is most certainly a meadowlark. Or, if the yellow bird you saw had a black mask on its eyes, it is probably a Common Yellow-throat Warbler.
Remember your Range
If you are in Nebraska, there are about 450 birds that you could have seen, but a Green Parakeet is not one of them! Once you have narrowed down your potential birds, look at the bird's range. If it is not typically found in Nebraska, it is not likely that you saw that bird!
Heed your Habitat
Some birds can be found in nearly any habitat - urban, farm, ranch, prairie, forest. But, most birds have a preferred habitat. Prairie Chickens, for example, need vast expanses of prairie. So, if you are standing in the middle of a city or town, it is not likely that you are seeing a Prairie Chicken. In addition to the bird's range, be sure to look at the bird's habitat preferences.