Why Birding?

Birding is the act of seeking, identifying and recording bird species. It is an awesome hobby because 1) it helps citizen science and conservation, 2) it takes you to amazing and unique places, and 3) it's a whole lot of fun!

Citizen Science and Conservation

Birders submit species checklists to eBird.org, hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. These checklists help researchers and data scientists monitor bird species population and movement. This data is essential to conservation efforts. Birding also spreads environmental awareness; birders see the effects of habitat degradation and pollution first hand.

Amazing and Unique Places

Birds are often found in remote environments, so birders often have to abandon the beaten path in favor of a more rustic adventure. The search for birds often leads us to amazing, unique and beautiful places. eBird's hotspot map helps us find these amazing new places.

It's a whole lot of fun!

Birding is collecting mixed with competition. Birders keep life lists of all the species they have seen, and they are always seeking to add a new species to their list. There is also constant competition on eBird to join the rankings of top birders for your county, state, country, or even the whole world! Birders can also hold big events such as a Big Year or Big Day. A Big Year is when a birder spends an entire year trying to see the most amount of bird species. There are competitions for just North America, or the entire world! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend the comedy movie The Big Year, where Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson compete for North America's record Big Year. Recently in the real world, Noah Strycker set the world record for most species seen in one year worldwide, amassing a total of 6,042 species! For us more common birders, eBird also hosts a "Global Big Day" every May 9th in support of bird conservation. Birders all over the world can test their skills against each other for a single day, it's a blast!

How do I get started?

Identify some common birds near you, pick up a bird reference book and/or download a bird reference app, and when you get more confident then pick up some 'nocs! First, use the "birds near you" link to find some hotspots that are close to you. Click "View Details" to see species that were recently seen there. Pick a few of the more numerous species to learn how to identify them. Use AllAboutBirds along with your reference app or book to learn how to identify them by sight and sound. Practice makes perfect! Just keep going out and identify more species. Once you are very confident, make an account on eBird and start submitting checklists. Be sure to only submit species that you are 110% confident are correct! Some species can be very tricky. Last but certainly not least, find some local birding clubs! There are bird clubs across the country that often host group birding walks. Birding with experienced birders is one of the fastest ways to learn. Get out there and have some fun!
Some tips for new birders:
  • Birds are most active in the morning, just after sunrise. If you want to see as many bird species as possible, go out nice and early.
  • When you get binoculars, be sure to adjust the diopter. The diopter is a ring around the right barrel which focuses just the right side, allowing you to fine-tune your binoculars to any difference between your two eyes. If you do not do this, you'll often end up with an uncomfortable view through your binoculars and a headache!
  • Playing audio from the reference apps to attract birds often works very well, but is very disruptive to the birds (especially during mating season). Playing calls and songs can also lead to misidentifications from any other birders in the vicinity. Because of these reasons, please avoid playing bird calls too loud out in the field.