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What’s So Great About Birdwatching Anyway?

Skimmers in flight

Here are a few reasons why birdwatching or birding is such a great happier-making activity – and a few tips for how to get started.

Real quick: what is birding? It’s the observation of birds.
We prefer the word birding over birdwatching – because it’s not just about watching. Listening for and to birds is a bit part of birding.

Great Spotted Woodpecker in Germany
Great Spotted Woodpecker in Germany

10 Reason Why Birding Is So Great (And Good For You)

Birding is fun and entertaining
Birds are mostly active and entertaining – if you take the time to observe. Discovering new-to-you birds and adding them to your “check list” can be a fun game. And observing a rare bird, a rare activity or something exceptionally beautiful can cause real awe to make you honestly exclaim: birding is awesome!

Activity for all ages, gender, races, cultures
From children to senior citizens, anyone can get into birding – by watching and listening.

Can be done anywhere
Pretty much anyone can look out of their window and eventually see a bird. Unless you live deep in a desert or underwater.

Watching and learning about birds and simply the behavior of another species adds so much to our knowledge, and to our empathy towards others, and to our overall well-being.

Blue Jay feeding its young
Blue Jay feeding its young

Good for mental health
Research and personal experience have shown that spending time in nature, slowing down, being mindful and in the present moment (which clears the head from too much worrying), and absorbing the beauty and balance in the outdoors relieves stress, brings joy, eases depression, and is restorative. In addition, listening to birds singing helps with stress recovery.

Good for physical health
Being outdoors in the fresh air, getting oxygen and sunshine (to trigger Vitamin D and other beneficial reactions) is good for your physical health. And of course, moving around as you look for birds is an activity that improves all kinds of aspects of your health (heart rate, digestion, muscle strength) without being as risky as full-on sports.

Yup. Simply watching doesn’t cost a thing. Of course, you may spend money as you invest in equipment (binocular, camera, etc.) and research (books, apps, etc.) and special locations (park entry fees, travel to Costa Rica or Galapagos Islands, etc.)

Ethically sound
Nobody should get hurt or offended by people watching birds. No animals get killed or harmed in the process – as long as you keep your distance and don’t disturb nests, etc.

white morph reddish egret
white morph reddish egret

Of course, you can share the joy of birding directly by looking for birds with other people. But even those who prefer to go alone, often feel connected to others as they share bird photos and stories on social media and online and in real life.

Observing birds might inspire you to get creative: to photograph, sketch, paint, or write poetry or whatever else you feel inspired to do…

How To Get Started With Birding

Look outside
Seriously, just look out your window. If you invest the time and focus, you might be surprised by how many birds you can spot from the comfort of your home or your car.

Get outside
The better bet. Get outside and try your yard or balcony first. Then venture down the street… and star

Look up and look down
This is part of becoming more mindful. Instead of always looking ahead and left and right, start paying attention to what might be above in the trees, on street signs, or roof tops – and around the cafe tables, under shrubs, and along any bodies of water.

Anhinga with wings spread out drying its feathers
Anhinga with wings spread out drying its feathers

Check out books, apps and websites to help you identify birds
We have a few favorite books that are specific to our region (e.g., Smithsonians Handbooks Birds of Florida by Fred J. Alsop III) and then more general and exceptionally beautiful books like Abrams’ The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible and What It’s Like To Be A Bird by David Allen Sibley.
For apps, we mostly use iNaturalist, Merlin Bird ID – and Google Lens.
And our favorite website to learn about birds is All About Birds. We also actually use wikipedia quite a bit, especially to figure out what certain birds are called in German.

Learn to listen for the bird sounds
If you can tell bird sounds and songs apart, you’ll be able to tell who may be “hiding” where. Follow the sound with your eyes and discover where the bird is “hiding”. A great resource to learn bird songs are bird websites like AllAboutBirds and searching on YouTube for specific bird songs.

Get binoculars or a camera with a longer lens
With such devices, you’ll be able to see more details to watch bird behavior and identify birds.
Of course, with a camera you can also take pictures to identify birds later at home with a book or search functions like “Google Lens”.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

Set up a birdbath and a bird feeder
Is there anything more joy-inducing than watching a mockingbird or blue jay take a bath? Okay, maybe. But watching birds bathe is pretty high up there. They look so unselfconsciously happy, it’s infectious. And if you’re the one who provided the bath, you know you caused this abundant joy.

Next level: get a bird house
Providing shelter and a place for birds to raise their young brings the opportunity to observe so much more. Some people even install cameras in homemade bird houses or near bird nests – so they don’t miss a thing. Scott just got into building our first bird houses. We’ll report back if someone has moved in.

We hope you enjoyed this beginners guide to birding. Come back and share some stories about bird encounters you have.

Male red cardinal at our birdfeeder
Male red cardinal at one of our birdfeeders

Video coming soon of birds in our Florida backyard…

All photos in this article were taken by Luci Westphal. Get one of Luci’s St. PetersBird photo calendars.

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Are you into birding? What do you love about it? Did we forget to list any benefits or steps to get started with birdwatching? Which birds are your favorites to watch or listen to? Where do you go to observe birds. You haven’t started birding yet? Do you have more questions? Are you thinking you might give i a try?

Please leave a comment below inspired by these questions or anything else you’d like to share.

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