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Bird watching

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of people who consider bird watching their hobby. There has also been an increase in the number of people involved in ornithology and those who earn a living from bird watching e.g. ecotourism. There are many reasons for this increase and it means a much greater awareness of at least one of the factors in ecology. There are great benefits associated with this increased awareness, but "careless" birding can also put significant pressure on the environment. For most people, the first step into the fascinating world of avian ecology is learning to identify their local birds. Normally the effort to satisfy this desire, to know which birds are visiting their backyard, is the beginning of a life long love affair with bird watching. Bird watching is fun, informative and a great way to meet people and learn about the world in which you live. It is a highly recommend pastime.

It is possible to bird watch almost anywhere, such as cities, gardens, parks, at the sea, lakes, rivers, nature reserves or farms. It is also not necessary to have very much equipment - ideally one should have good set of binoculars with at least 8X magnification and a good field guide to assist with identification (these are very helpful in the beginning). Birds are often far away, relative to our eyesight. For this reason binoculars and birdwatching telescopes are readily available. Sometimes the choice is bewildering and the advice confusing. The simplest advice is to work out your budget and then try out what is available. Do not be in a hurry, give yourself time to shop around. Remember, for most people this is a reasonably expensive outlay, especially telescopes, and you will be stuck with what you buy for many years. With binoculars do not go for huge magnifications and zooms these are hard to told steady and generally have lower quality optics. Look for how much light they let in. Basically the larger the diameter of the front lens the more light you will have on the image. Remember you will not always be using your binoculars in good clear weather. A rain-guard is a useful addition. Stick to magnifications of between X7 and X10 anything larger becomes unwieldy. Higher magnifications also mean less light on the image you eye receives. Finally buy your binoculars first and get used to doing a bit of birding before you think of buying a telescope.
 

When outdoors, keep as quiet as possible and dress in colours that blend with the environment. As your interest develops, so may your need for additional equipment such as cameras, telescopes / spotting scopes, and audio and video recorders. There is a wide range of options and almost all interests can be satisfied.

Bird watching should be distinguished from 'bird spotting' . The difference is that while a 'bird watcher' is interested in the beauty of the bird and its behaviour, a 'bird spotter' is only interested in collecting a set of ticks on a piece of paper. This does not mean that 'bird watchers' do not keep lists of what birds they have seen, most of them do, but the attitude is different. IF you sit still quietly and watch birds for a while, you will often be surprised to see how curious and friendly birds are (much depends on their previous interaction with humans), and their behaviour and habits can vary considerably depending on the season.

When bird watching ensure that you treat the environment with respect. It may not be the place where you live, but it is home to thousands of other creatures, including birds. Leave the place as you found it and often it is even possible to clean it up a bit due to the junk other people have left lying around. There is also no need to capture or scare the birds to observe them and get to understand them a lot better. Many people descending on the same area can also have an impact on the environment as some of the prime birding areas are ecologically sensitive to human disturbance. Our primary objective should be to conserve the environment and leave it in a better condition than we found it for our children, and to leave our children with a better understanding of our environment than we have or at least had at their age.

Part of the information on this page was contributed by EarthLife.

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Last updated: 01 January 2003