Know Before You Go: Tips for the First-Time Birder

April 21, 2011
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Recent years have seen birdwatching emerge as one of the most popular nature travel activities. Yet while some vacationers are eager to catch a glimpse of our feathered friends, simple mistakes can make a birding adventure an exercise in frustration.

Fortunately, there are a few things that amateur birdwatchers should keep in mind whenever they enter the brush in search of an elusive species.

The first thing that an aspiring birder should do is peruse their provided species checklist and familiarize themselves with the local bird life. The checklists will typically offer a lot of helpful information that should make identifying a species that much easier, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the native wildlife.

Likewise, investing in a solid pair of binoculars is a must. Bird sightings often happen at a distance, and there's nothing more embarrassing than being the only one in the group who can't tell a robin from a blue jay at 100 yards. Consumersearch.com notes that most experienced birdwatchers use full-size 40 mm to 42 mm binoculars, though amateurs might prefer to opt for similar strength mid-size lenses, which will be lighter and easier to carry.

Birders are also very serious about properly identifying the species, so first-timers will want to keep a sharp eye out for distinguishing physical characteristics. Facial markings, wing bars, leg color and tail shape can all be telltale signs of a particular species. Some birds may share certain characteristics, however, so keeping on top of the small details is a must.

Minding a bird's behavioral patterns can be just as important in the identification process, as different species groom, hunt and nest in very particular manners that can help birders differentiate between similar species.


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