Bird-Watching Isn't Just For Our Grandparents Anymore - How To Dive Into The Hobby

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With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to make time for hobbies. Some activities require a significant investment of time or materials to even make them feel worthwhile. But one lowkey and flexible hobby is now experiencing an unexpected renaissance thanks to its anywhere, anytime potential: bird-watching.


Bird-watching might sound a little old-fashioned, but you don't have to be an octogenarian to appreciate the gentle pace of this hobby. These days, when everything seems to be moving faster and faster, even young generations are recognizing the need for an excuse to slow down and reconnect with the world around us. And as it happens, bird-watching — also called "birding" — is an ideal way for people of any age to practice a little recreational mindfulness.

"I think Gen Z are getting more and more into birding to help alleviate the stresses of living in a digital world," birder Mya-Rose Craig tells Well+Good. "There are a high number of children and young people impacted by anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as a disproportionately high number of people of color. So, connecting with birds is a type of mindfulness to help distract and calm your mind."


It's no wonder, then, that birding is gaining renewed traction, with the hashtag #birdwatching already boasting more than 1.1 billion views on TikTok. But if you're new to the bird-watching game, you might be wondering how to get started with this classic pastime. Fortunately, committing to a new hobby doesn't get any easier than this. To start enjoying the avian life all around you, here are a few easy ways to dive into bird-watching ASAP.

Start identifying the birds around you

If you want to get into the hobby of bird-watching, one easy place to begin is by identifying the birds you see every day. This means choosing some kind of reference you can consult to recognize different species. Traditionally, birders have used bird-watching guides like Complete Birds of North America by National Geographic. You can also buy guides specific to your region. The National Audubon Society, OG of the bird-watching world, produces a whole series of reference books for birds around the U.S., such as the Field Guide for Birds, Western Region.


For bird-watching on the go, you can also make use of modern birding apps to keep a vast reference library right in your pocket. Some popular options include Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab and iBird Pro Guide to Birds. The Audubon Society also has an app called The Audubon Field Guide, which can help you identify up to 800 different species of birds.

Once you have a reliable way to start learning more about the birds you encounter, you may also want to keep notes in a birding journal. This way, you can begin to recognize the birds you see regularly without having to look them up every time.

Pick up some binoculars

At its most basic, bird-watching doesn't require anything but your own eyeballs. The point is just to get enjoyment out of seeing and appreciating the avians around you. But many bird enthusiasts like to get an up-close and personal look at their feathery friends, which is why a pair of binoculars may come in handy — especially if you're trying to definitively identify each species you spot. Being able to see a bird in detail may be the difference between recognizing a black-capped chickadee versus a Carolina chickadee.


Fortunately, you don't have to go over the top with super-professional lenses, as binoculars come in a range of price points. For the casual bird-watcher, even an inexpensive pair of pocket binoculars may fit the bill. Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars are a popular and reasonably priced choice, with the added convenience of portability. Or, for something a little more high-powered, consider mid-range options like Gosky 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars, which even come with a handy phone mount and carry bag.

Lure more birds to your own yard

Whether or not you elect to use binoculars as part of your new bird-spotting hobby, it would make your life a lot easier if the birds would just come to you. Happily, the answer to this is simple. To enjoy more bird-watching in your daily life, you can lure local fowl straight to your yard — not with a milkshake à la Kelis, but with a few bird-friendly amenities that will have them flocking to your home.


The first and most foolproof strategy is to set up a birdfeeder. Have no doubt, the way to a bird's heart is through its stomach. Many grocery stores and home improvement centers sell a variety of birdseed mixes to attract specific species, plus other tasty treats like suet blocks. Many birds are also delighted to enjoy leftovers like stale crackers, bread, cereal, or nuts.

If you don't have the cash to shell out for a fancy feeder, even a plate or bowl will do. But you'll probably notice that a lot of the foods enjoyed by birds will also attract other woodland creatures like squirrels and chipmunks. To keep these critters away from your birdseed supply, you may need to invest in a more robust bird feeder designed to thwart their thievery. And if you want to attract special bird species like hummingbirds, you may need a specialized feeder to hold their preferred sugar syrup and get the best results.


But food alone is not the only bird-luring tactic. As a final coup de grâce for your new avian paradise, you can also install a birdbath and enjoy watching species from wrens to robins splash around in their own personal pool party.

Change locations to spot new species

Have you already gotten an eyeful of the various birds in your own neighborhood? Then why not branch out by taking a bird-watching adventure somewhere new? It's easy to practice this hobby almost anywhere, so you can make your outing as casual or intensive as you like. Take an hour to relax and soak in the wildlife at a nearby park, go farther afield to enjoy all the birds living in your closest conservation area, or even indulge in a little birding during any overnight trips on your calendar.


Birding doesn't even have to be the primary motivation for your outing. After all, there's no reason that you can't squeeze some bird-watching into an international business trip, a weekend getaway at a mountain cabin, or your family's annual summer vacation to the beach. Any kind of travel is a boon to bird enthusiasts, as different ecosystems naturally mean different habitats and bird species to ogle. So allow yourself to grasp any opportunity to unwind and practice your own brand of bird-themed mindfulness whenever the urge strikes.

Recruit a bird-watching buddy

Like many other hobbies and interests, bird-watching can be even more fulfilling when you have the chance to share it with a friend or loved one. So why not put out feelers into your social network and see if anyone you know is also interested in birds? Or, if you have a friend looking for a way to slow down their own life a little, you could suggest bird-watching as a new activity to explore together.


Having a bird-watching buddy gives you an outlet to share the joy and peace you feel when a beautiful bird crosses your path. Text them about your latest sighting, send each other photos, and compare notes when you learn something new about the species in your area.

You can even go on bird-watching jaunts together, letting you soak up a little nature and get in some light socializing at the same time. Keep one eye out for birds while you share a picnic lunch or spend a day walking in the woods. Bird-watching is also a great companion to easy exercise like the soft hiking trend, so don't be afraid to multitask together!

Share your love for birds online

Another way to deepen your new bird appreciation hobby is to take your enthusiasm online. If you've got an interest in photography and a love for social media, bird-watching dovetails perfectly with these pastimes — pun intended. So whenever you take gorgeous snaps of the blue jays cavorting in your backyard or sandpipers wading through the surf during your trip to the beach, why not post them for others to enjoy? Sharing your original bird content online is a good way to meet other birders and tap into the digital bird-watching community.


You can even start a social account dedicated purely to your bird-watching adventures. Instagram is one obvious platform. Its format is perfect for saving your bird photos for posterity, essentially letting you build and curate your very own bird-watching log. TikTok isn't out of the question, either, if you prefer to take videos of each feathery friend you encounter.

Join a bird-watching group or society

For anyone ready to double down on their love for birds, you can even go so far as to join local birding groups or large-scale bird-watching societies. On a national and international level, some of the most celebrated organizations for bird enthusiasts include the American Birding Association and, of course, The National Audubon Society. These societies often have local chapters you can join, as well, to enjoy in-person meetings and bird-watching excursions.


To find a smaller birding organization in your own neck of the woods, it can also be helpful to look on sites like Meetup, search for groups on social media platforms like Facebook, or even check with your nearest library or community center. And if you can't find the type of bird-watching group you're looking for, why not start one of your own? You can easily reach out to other birders in your neighborhood through apps like Nextdoor or by posting flyers on local notice boards. As birding grows in popularity, there are sure to be a few like-minded bird enthusiasts in your area.