Useful Tips

Birdwatching - a hobby for bird watchers


Vadim Boyarkin, Julia Nakhimova. Photo authors.

At the end of the 19th century, a new hobby appeared in England: to observe birds in their natural habitat.

At the end of the 19th century, a new hobby appeared in England: to observe birds in their natural habitat. There were more and more lovers of this occupation, and in 1901 the name “birdwatching” was assigned to it, which in translation means “bird watching”. Nowadays, this term often sounds without translation - “birdwatching”.

In the twentieth century in Western Europe, in the USA and in Russia, bird watching has become a popular activity. Amateurs-ornithologists create associations, conduct excursions, organize trips to places of crowded birds. Observers take part in counting birds during seasonal migrations, compile lists of species of a certain area, build feeders and places for nesting, monitor the distribution of rare species, even arrange competitions: who will notice more birds of different species at a certain time or in a certain territory.

The more people learn about birds, the more carefully they are treated, the more attention they pay to the welfare of birds. And birdwatching develops observation, trains memory, improves endurance, patience and reaction. It’s even reckless!

To start observing birds, you don’t need any special skills and scientific knowledge, and you don’t have to go far: birds live everywhere - in the yard, in the garden, in the nearest park. After a few months of observation, you will be well versed in their diversity, and over time you will be able to identify birds no worse than professionals. The main thing is desire and perseverance. Of the equipment you need only binoculars, a notebook and a pencil. Binoculars, of course, should not be theatrical, but more serious - eight or tenfold, so that you have the opportunity to examine birds not only near, but also in open space.

Take notes right along the way. Before going on a walk, write in a notebook information about the weather, about the place where you are, and other, in your opinion, important information. When you see a bird, describe in detail the signs that you managed to consider (size, proportions, the shape of the head, beak, tail, wings, coloring of individual parts), as well as the nature of the flight and the surrounding nature. To determine the size of the object of observation, compare it with birds whose size you know (sparrow, starling, pigeon, crow, duck, goose). Try to make a sketch and do not forget to indicate the date of observation. By the way, use only a simple pencil (ink may blur when moisture gets in). The more complete your notes are, the easier it is to subsequently determine the type of bird encountered - independently by using a bird's atlas, or with the help of a more experienced observer.

A great help in determining the type of bird is photography. With the development of digital photographic equipment, there are a lot of observers, photo hunters, however, to make a good picture, you need some preparation.

Another reliable assistant in this matter is bird singing. Each bird sings in its own way, and often similar appearances can be distinguished only by song. Now the voices of birds are recorded on discs, they can be bought. These audio recordings are sometimes used to lure birds in nature.

The best time of the year for acquaintance with birds is spring and the beginning of summer, when they sing and have a bright mating color. But it is no less interesting to watch the birds in early autumn, when many of them gather in flocks before flying south. Or with the onset of winter, when bird feeders in urban parks and squares can be seen, preferring a secretive lifestyle in spring, summer and autumn.

Most birds are most active from dawn and hours until 9-10 in the morning. However, there are species of birds that sing in the middle of the day or exclusively at dusk, but there are those that are shown only at night. Observe the most common birds that are familiar to you, and you will probably notice something new in their behavior, nutrition, voice. And then it will be much easier to notice birds that you still do not know.

Birdwatching will be most useful if you join a group of observers under the guidance of an experienced ornithologist who can immediately name a few dozen species of birds and pay attention to their distinguishing features. But do not forget that the more people, the less you will see: many birds are very shy. In order not to disturb them, put on an inconspicuous protective suit, hat or cap. Find some natural shelter and try not to make noise.

And further. If the bird makes an alarm, it means that you have come too close. Do not approach the nest, much less pick up the chicks, this will force the bird to leave it. And imitation of bird singing can distract her from some important occupation, such as feeding chicks. Do not forget that some birds, such as swans or owls, can attack you, sensing a threat.

Seeing a rare bird, do not rush to immediately disclose your discovery. She may be disturbed by the curious, or she will be interested in poachers, collectors of bird eggs, just hooligans. Better report the find to the Russian Bird Conservation Union.

For the first weekend of October, for 20 consecutive years, World Bird Watching Days have been held - this is a great chance to try yourself as an amateur bird watcher (see Science and Life No. 11, 2003). You just need to observe the birds for a while, and then fill out a short form on the website:, where you indicate how many birds, what species you noticed. Based on information received from hundreds of thousands of amateur ornithologists, scientists make a real picture of the species diversity of birds around the world. Thus, several million individuals are recorded annually on birdwatching days. Among them, primacy belongs to the common starling and the mallard duck. Leaving home with binoculars, a notebook and a pencil, you can add a few more individuals to this list, which means that the walk can be considered successful!

Birdwatching was carried away by many famous scientists. Among them, American biologist James Watson, who discovered in 1953 (along with Francis Crick) the spiral structure of a DNA molecule and received the Nobel Prize for this. Watson recalled: “... Father and I got up almost every morning, especially in May, when it was still dark to get to Jackson Park shortly after sunrise. As a result, we had almost two hours at our disposal to search for the rarest species of warblers, mainly in the area of ​​the Wooded Island. Dad discerned the voices of birds much better than I did: for example, when he heard the harsh song of the red-black tanagra, he never mistook it for a more melodic singing of the Baltimore colored corpse, which also flies to Chicago when the leaves open. Then dad got on the tram going north and drove off to work, and I went to school in a trolley bus going in the opposite direction ...

In my last summer, I spent more and more time at Wolfe Lake in my parents' house, watching the birds. I found hundreds of Tules and dozens of brown-winged plover there, about whose long flights across the oceans I read with enthusiasm in childhood. On the sandy shores, song zyuks still nested, interspersed with more numerous webbed-necked ties, which arrived in August. I watched bird flocks rushing along the coast, and tried to understand what evolutionary forces created these social animals that invariably gathered in flocks instead of living alone ... "(James Watson. Avoid boring. Lessons from life lived in science. - M .: Astrel: CORPUS, 2010).

A bit of history and the essence of hobbies

You should not think that birdwatching is a new direction that appeared as a result of man’s longing for wildlife. There is information that this hobby originated in the thirties of the twentieth century. The English aristocrats, who were looking for application to the binoculars that appeared at that time, began to while away time watching birds.

Later, birds began to be photographed, so a whole bird hunting was born. The name birdwatching came from two English words: bird - bird, watching - observation. Sometimes there is another name - berding, but if you delve into the terms, then this is a more advanced level.

Do not confuse birdwatchers with ornithologists - professionals who study birds for science. Birdwatchers do not do research, more often they choose any one locality - a park, a river bank, a lake, a neighborhood of cities, and monitor bird families there.

Can highlight two types Birdwatching - home and tourist. In the first version, photo-hunting is conducted on the inhabitants of one place, regularly visiting guests to the bird family. Ornithological tourism is a short and long journey, during which they conduct amateur studies.

For birdwatching use binoculars and cameras. Bird watchers photograph bird houses, observe the emergence and development of chicks. Thus, fascinating life stories of feathered families are born.

All observations and photo reports are recorded in diaries. Now it’s convenient to do this on a computer. Thanks to powerful digital cameras, almost professional materials are obtained. By the way, ornithologists often use amateur materials.

The first steps into the bird world

If you live in a city, choose a park or square near your home. If in the village - take a walk along the edge of the forest, go to a swamp or the shore of a reservoir. Take a look at what kind of birds live there, take a picture of them, and then at home, determine the species from the photo and study what they are. The best time to explore is early morning.

In particular, specify the features of birds that fell into the lens:

  • are they migratory or constantly live in one place,
  • how to create couples
  • how many eggs are laid
  • what size eggs
  • how long do the chicks hatch,
  • what do they eat
  • how they sleep.

Already on the basis of all this information you can watch your wards. Be sure to photograph everything that happens with the family of birds. Accompany each photograph with an explanatory description.

You can store your observations on the local computer, but it is better to do this in the online diary. For example, create your website on a free platform or create a page on a social network. So not only you, but others will be able to get acquainted with the interesting world of birds.

What equipment will be required

In order to engage in ornithological tourism, at the initial stage you do not have to buy anything. In fact, this is one of the free hobbies, if you treat it as a pleasant vacation. To begin with, even a camera in the phone is suitable, a selfie stick will help to raise it. But later, most likely, you will get carried away and want to buy a good camera.

Of course, without binoculars and a good camera that approximates the photographed object, it is difficult to observe the nests located at a height. It is also impossible to get close - feathered friends are even afraid of people in city parks.

Binoculars for birdwatching should be convenient and lightweight, preferably with a rubber coating that protects against moisture and shock. Enough eight to ten times the increase. For long-term observation, a telescope with a tripod is ideal.

To mask, you need to choose the right clothes. It makes no sense to go on a photo hunt in bright dresses and tapping heels. Wear clothing that blends in with the environment and don't forget that forest dwellers love silence. Choose shoes that are comfortable and appropriate for the season - sneakers, rubber boots, trekking boots. Clothing should be closed even in summer to prevent the bite of ticks, mosquitoes and other insects.

In birdwatching, you can not only take pictures, but also record on a voice recorder sounds of birds. Later, these recordings are ideal for relaxation. Do not think that you have only sparrows, for example, there are facts that about 200 species of birds live in Moscow.

To understand which bird fell into the frame, a qualifier is needed. Today, you can use not only paper, but also special software for smartphones and tablets.

From the books you can visit “Birds of the Urals, Cisurals and Western Siberia” and “The Complete Key to Birds of the European Part of Russia” in three volumes. For Android, look for "Field Atlas - the identifier of birds, bird nests and the voices of birds in central Russia."

Page from qualifier


Bird watching is more often seen as a hobby, since such an activity pursues more entertaining than scientific purpose. Bird watching has gained the most popularity in Western Europe and North America.

Most observers travel the world either in small groups of 6-10 people, or independently - for example, a husband and wife. All data (where, when, at what time, how many birds, what species) are recorded in field diaries.

Information gathered by amateur bird watchers can be of scientific value. For example, the first reports of a canary finch, a mountain robe, a black-necked curler and Dubrovnik in the Leningrad Region were received from an amateur (bird-catcher). Recently, thanks to international projects such as “Spring is coming”, the role of amateur bird watchers has increased in collecting information on bird migrations.

Rules of conduct and restrictions

Experienced bird watchers recall:

  1. It is undesirable to approach the nests and photograph them close. You can not touch the nests and eggs, it is better to immediately move away from this place.
  2. When you see a chick that has fallen out, you must immediately move away from it and in no case try to save and return to the nest. It almost always leads to death!
  3. Birdwatching is not combined with barbecue and picnics. You can not make noise, make fires and turn on music. This rudely intrudes on the life of birds, they can even leave their homes.
  4. Feeding birds in winter is possible, but this should be done regularly and at the same time. If you are not ready to include feeding in daily duties, it is better not to start at all. Otherwise, the birds will get used to the feed and suffer if the feeder remains empty. Do not feed bread, take millet, unroasted seeds or special bird food.

Do not forget that birdwatching should not disturb the lives of animals and harm them! A successful shot can not be more important than the calm of the inhabitants of the forest.

What are the benefits of birdwatching

Ornithological tourism is a great opportunity to fill not only your walks, but your whole life with new meaning.

Many observation lovers acquire another hobby in parallel - photography. Starting to take pictures of birds, you, of course, will begin to study photo art, learn to catch interesting shots, and select an exposure. By the way, on such photos you can make good money when the time comes, read how to do it.

Birdwatching is a great hobby for single people. Walking alone is boring, but with a camera in your hands you will forget about your loneliness, and armed with a goal, you will cease to torment yourself with sad thoughts.

Such walks stimulate to go out in any weather, and this is the path to health and longevity! After all, walking is much more useful than sitting at the TV or flipping through the Internet. You will also have to climb trees to make a successful shot. But this, of course, is only at will and with physical fitness.

Birdwatching people gather in groups and communities, which means it's a hobby helps to find friendsand sometimes feminine happiness. Look for such people in your city, as well as on social networks and forums where bird watchers communicate. There is even an international club BirdLifeʼs Rare Bird Club. In communities, including virtual ones, birdwatching competitions are held, who saw and captured the most of the winged ones on camera.

With groups you can travel to different regions, go on joint hikes and go to visit each other. With new friends, you can share your observations and draw useful lessons from more experienced comrades. Having gained experience, you can take part in contests and tournaments.

First of all, birdwatching is a vacation, which means that you need to do it for pleasure, without forcing yourself to do what you do not like. Watch the birds in spring, winter, summer and autumn. In different seasons you can get acquainted with new species and find out what permanent residents do at different times of the year.

Birdwatching can also be recommended for hanging out with children; for kids, such walks will be in joy and benefit. An ideal occupation to take the child on vacation at home or in the country.

Check our list of hobbies to find for yourself many different interesting activities! At each point of this list - new sensations and good mood!