Birder Primer - A Beginner’s Quick Start Guide

Begin observing birds with your eyes and ears. Congrats! You’re officially a birder! As you begin to appreciate birds more regularly, you will likely want to invest in a pair of binoculars and a field guide: these are the two most important tools for a birder beyond the eyes and ears.

Binocular tips: Some are better than others. When purchasing binoculars, we suggest Eagle Optics online and LAND SEA & SKY locally. People at both of these stores can help you select binoculars that fit your needs.

Field guide suggestions: Choose an online guide, hard copy guide, or both. You may like National Geographic Birds of North America in hard copy or iBird app online. Online apps are popular because of photos and sounds; they are easy to carry into the field on your phone.

Another very important resource is other people. More experienced birders can help you identify tricky birds and also begin associating birds with specific habitats and times of year. Come on a Houston Audubon bird survey walk or join a watch party to meet fellow bird enthusiasts! Birders make up a diverse and wonderful community of friendly nature lovers. Here is some basic etiquette for a bird walk:

RESPECT THE BIRDS: Maintain a distance from the birds and their habitat. Avoid moving into sensitive areas where birds may be nesting.

SOUND: Many people bird by ear, so keep your voice low enough that you can hear the sounds of nature around you. If you need to take a phone call, simply step away from the group.

SHARE THE VIEW: By all means, bring your camera to capture beautiful moments! Be sure you give others a chance to see that great view, too, by stepping aside once you’ve had your fill.

OBSERVE THE OBSERVERS: A neat way to find a bird without having to ask is by examining where everyone is looking. Make note where the binoculars are pointing, follow your eyes/binocs to that location, and frequently you can “get on” the bird in no time.

READ the ABA Ethics Guide

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