Birding Basics

Why bird?

It’s one of life’s pleasures.

Birds are colorful, lively, and (relatively) easy to observe as they go about their daily business. Whether you watch them at your backyard feeder, or go out looking for them in a park, birding is just a lot of fun. An estimated 85 million Americans are birders, and they can’t all be wrong!

It connects you with the natural world.

In our increasingly urbanized, technological world, birding is an antidote to “nature deficit disorder.” It gets us out there. It reminds us that there is still a natural world all around us, right at our doorstep, and that it is something to be treasured.

It’s green.

We can’t help but be aware of the environment these days, and of our impact on it. Birding is a great way to start learning about some of the effects of climate change as well as other changes we humans have brought on the world, from degraded water quality to habitat fragmentation. And the more we know, the better positioned we are to help ourselves and the environment.

Interested in birding but don’t know where to start?

Join us for a bird walk at a local park – beginners are always welcome. Bring a pair of binoculars and your sense of adventure - depending on the park you visit and the season, you might be lucky enough to see anything from tundra swans and bald eagles, to woodcocks and wood warblers.

The northern Virginia region is home to a wide variety of bird habitats and seasonal bird populations, as well as many knowledgeable birders who will be happy to help you get started and give you advice. And any birder will tell you - there’s nothing like actually getting out there! Check out the area's birding hotspots.

Be sure to sign up for a beginning birding workshop through our education program. ASNV  classes and workshops also cover topics ranging from ornithology, to geology, to wildflowers.

Backyard birding

One great way to start is by becoming better acquainted with your local, backyard birds. A bird feeder can be a good way to attract birds to your home, and give you more opportunities for observing them at closer range. You might be surprised at the number of different bird species that come to visit if you put out the right kinds of foods.

The Internet has a wealth of information - on types of seed, feeder locations, discouraging squirrels, and more. Check the:

Another way to attract birds is to create landscaping that will provide birds with needed food, water, and shelter. Our Audubon at Home program can provide you with information and advice on “naturescaping,” including native plants, water management, and reducing your use of pesticides.

Bird houses provide nesting sites and shelter, and can also help you bring birds into your yard. One size does not fit all, however – a nest box meant for a house wren won’t be good for a screech owl – and you will want to do some planning to make sure you are providing the right kind of nest box and situating it appropriately for the birds you’d like to invite in.

Please remember to clean your feeders and birdhouses regularly, so as to avoid spreading diseases in the bird population.


Looking to Introduce Young Children to Birding?

Kaleidimals (Kuh-LYE-duh-MUHLS) is a book that makes a game out of identifying birds. They are
kaleidoscope-like designs made from photographs of animals. These intriguing designs are complimented by fascinating facts about the birds and their habitats, making it a must read for all ages and a magnificent addition to every wildlife/bird book collection. Click here for more information.

Unusual or Banded Bird

If you have ever wondered who you can tell about an unusual bird you have seen or want keep track of the birds you see regularly, there are a number of sites that can help.

You can report bird sightings to a list serve maintained by the Virginia Society of Ornithology. Sign up here. The Virginia Society of Ornithology keeps records for the entire state.

You can also use The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird database. The Virginia section, which has information specific to the Commonwealth, can be found here.

If you want to report a banded bird, you can do so at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center's North American Bird Banding Program here.