Boys' Life magazine

How to Get Started Birding

Birdwatching can be a fun pastime. All you need are binoculars and a bird guide to start.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Binoculars: Look for a pair that is waterproof, is comfortable in your hand and has at least 8x magnification. You can borrow some until you’re ready to buy your own.

A bird guide like The Sibley Guide to Birds ($20) will help you identify what you’re seeing. There’s information about specific birds, bird families, migration patterns and much more. You could also try a birding app like The Audubon Bird Guide, free for Android and iOS. Visit ebird.org to see which species have recently been spotted in your state.

HEADING OUT

1. Use your bird guide, app or an online resource to research birds you’d like to find in your area.

2. Start in your own backyard, or head to a nearby park with lots of trees and plenty of open space.

3. Find a place to sit or stand that has a good view of everything around you. Look around for birds.

4. Once you spot one, study it. Find the most obvious detail about it. White wings? Yellow markings? Big crest? Write down what you observe, including the bird’s color, size, shape, sounds and habits. You can also try drawing the birds for future reference. Those details will help you identify them. As you spend more time birding, you’ll be able to identify birds more quickly and easily.

5. You’re officially a birder. Keep at it! The more often you go out, the more you’ll discover.

WHY BIRDING?

Birding is one of the country’s fastest-growing hobbies, with more than 65 million Americans actively involved. In fact, many of the most important scientific discoveries about birds were made by amateur birders. Get out there and make your own valuable contribution to science. You can also earn the Bird Study merit badge, by which you’ll identify at least 20 species of wild birds. Find a counselor to get started.