10 Tips For Novice Bird Watchers

Do you want to begin bird watching but don’t know your greenfinch from your greenshank?

These tips will help you get started on your bird watching journey, and although we can’t guarantee that you’ll ever be able to tell the difference between a willow warbler and a chiffchaff, you will soon gain the confidence to be able to identify enough birds to get a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from your new hobby (similar to a kestrel, except they can’t hover).

Young Bird Watcher


Invest in a good field guide which identifies British breeding birds and common migrants. A field guide should also tell you where where you can observe different species and in which seasons. You can also get apps for your phone to help you with bird identification.


Learn to identify birds by their calls. You can download bird song online and it’s a great idea to add it to your smart phone so you can take it with you when you go out into the field. Our bird identification guides have some examples of bird calls and songs.


A good pair of binoculars is essential. You don’t have to spend a fortune when you start out but try and get the best you can afford. Read our guides to bird watching binoculars to help you find the ones most suitable for you.


Begin by watching birds in your garden or local park. This way you’ll be able to learn about different identification techniques and there shouldn’t be too many different species that might confuse you.


Know what birds to expect in the area you visit. Before you embark on a bird watching trip read up on what birds you should see for the time of the year. Your field guide should help you with this.


Join a local bird watching group. You’ll get to know other bird watchers who will be happy to share their knowledge and meet experienced birders who can help you with your new pastime.


Get in to the habit of keeping a bird watching diary so you can track where you see different birds and learn the best times of year to see them.


Take pictures if you can. Keeping a visual record is useful to refer to and it also means if you can’t identify a bird in the field then you will be able to when you get home.


Go on an organised birding tour. You’ll have the opportunity to visit a great bird watching area under the guidance of an experienced birder. Take a look at our bird watching holidays and tours to get some ideas on where to go.


Most importantly have fun!

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