The enjoyment of birds is a pastime available to all of us… whether we’re viewing their beauty and clever behavior from a kitchen window or from a pristine trail in one of our region’s magnificent wilderness areas.
Here are some tips to help get you started:
1. Take your time to observe. Watch for movement. Much of the motion you see in your garden or on hikes will be birds. And edges are best… fence posts, the edge of a lawn, a shoreline, the highest tips of trees. (Fun tip: sudden commotion on the part of smaller birds can indicate the appearance of a raptor. Watch closely.)
2. Listen for songs and calls. If you already have bird-friendly features in your garden (trees, a freshly-filled bird bath, native plantings) you probably have regular visitors. At different times of the year, different species appear and announce their visit. Males tend to sing more than females, in defending territory and attracting mates. Numerous apps can help you identify bird songs & calls (although birds like the Northern Mockingbird can mimic many species of birds and will sometimes sing through the night to attract a mate).
3. Adaptations help birds survive. You may see a flock of different species together in your garden, each with different specialized adaptations to utilize a specific niche. Birds with short, stout beaks, like sparrows and finches, can use their beaks for cracking seeds. Birds with thin, pointed beaks are often insect-eaters and may need to flit around more. These physical and behavioral adaptations can be more helpful in identifying birds than color. Two essential tools for enjoying and identifying birds are binoculars and a handy bird field guide. (There are many good field guides to choose from, and some available at the local library.)
4. Share the fun. Altacal Audubon schedules regular field trips in Northern California with expert leaders who will introduce you to the birds in some of our beautiful wilderness areas. There are trips for all ages and different levels of difficulty, from casual strolls to adventurous hikes. Altacal’s Annual Snow Goose Festival offers a variety of spectacular field trips highlighting our magnificent Pacific Flyway. In addition to the festival, another way to begin your exploration of the flyway is to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
The a OLLI Program at CSU offers beginner birding classes. eBird is a wonderful way to participate in Citizen Science and share your discoveries. And if you’d like to have more birds in your garden, we hope you’ll join Altacal’s Certified Neighborhood Habitat Program, also featured on this website.