Tips for Beginner Bird Watchers

By Caroline Craighead

December 18, 2017

Take part in the longest-running public bird count in the nation.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Image Credit: 

Bird Images

An annual tradition since 1928, Seattle Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count—part of the society’s international count—brings volunteer novice and expert bird watchers together to count the area’s birds. The data compiled helps the National Audubon Society and other bird conservation groups understand the impacts of climate change and to help target conservation efforts to specific species and habitats.

Toby Ross, science manager at the Seattle Audubon Society, offers these strategies on how to optimize bird viewing and counting for the Seattle count taking place December 30.

Dress right
Wear layers of clothing and comfortable walking shoes: You’ll be scouring a route within a 15-mile-diameter area. Select earth-toned or neutral-colored clothing; bright colors can detract birds.

Binoculars make it more fun
They’re not necessary for bird watching, but they make it easier to observe them at a distance.

Become familiar with species
Spotting a bird is only half of the job; the breed also needs to be identified. Guidebooks on birds in the Northwest are widely available, or you can download Cornell University’s helpful Merlin Bird ID app.

Listen up
Listening to songs and calls can help guide you in the right direction or identify a species. If your ear is especially attuned, you can join the owling group to listen for these nocturnal birds in the predawn hours.

Count your backyard birds
You don’t need to head into the field to participate in the count. Sign up for the Feeder Watch program to count the birds you see from your window; you can submit your findings electronically.

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