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How to Start Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard


Spring might bring the return of favorite TV shows, daylight after work hours (i.e., the return of post-work productivity) and colorful blooms on trees, but it also brings the sweet sounds of tweeting songbirds. With the weather (very) slowly warming up for the season, birds of all types begin migrating again, which means birding experts and backyard bystanders alike are keeping eyes (and ears!) out for new feathered friends.

If you're interested in bird-watching—or just curious which bird's chirping is waking you up in the wee hours of the morning—check out these resources for ways you can ID nature's little alarm clocks.

To start, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and preserve Earth's biological diversity through the study of birds, recommends a four-step approach to spotting: Take note of the bird's (1) size and shape, then (2) look for it's primary color. Then (3) assess the bird's behavior and (4) habitat. With this info in mind, consult one of the guides below:

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  • One of the easiest ways to ensure you'll see birds is to post up a feeder. But the type of food you're filling it with can help narrow down the type of bird. Use The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch to find the most likely birds based on your region, feeder type and food type. And download their Common Feeder Birds Mini Poster for quick reference.
  • Think you've identified a specific bird? Double-check against Bird Watchers Digest's Bird Identification Guide, which offers photos and an audio clip of common sounds from each bird.
  • There's an app for that! When you're on the go, keep the BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide app (free, iOS, Android) handy for spotting birds in your area. The user community reports birds recently seen in a specific area so you can view screenshots of their sightings or get directions to an identified birding hotspot.
  • Have a question specific to you area? Get in touch with your local National Audubon Society chapter, which is an organization dedicated to bird protection, conservation and education with nearly 500 local offices nationwide.

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