Year round Tennessee is home to hundreds of bird species, some migratory and some not. What better way to get out and about than to go in search of some brightly hued birds? Fortunately, birding can be done out of doors as well as indoors. Just by staring out your own window you can experience so much that bird watching has to offer, and bad weather need not hinder this adventure.
Some items to consider having nearby when your birding expedition begins are binoculars, a pencil, and a piece of paper. A wintery, overcast sky can be the perfect backdrop to view silhouettes of birds in trees, flight, or on a wire, but winter months can prove to be a slow time of year for our bird species, so remember to have a little patience. Though you may not see an abundance of bird species, there should be a good amount of bird activity in any area–neighborhoods, parks, greenways, or even city blocks.
The pen and paper will come in handy as you begin viewing your local birds. Write down the time you saw the bird, in what general location (such as in a tree or on the ground), and a short description of the bird’s size and color. This information will help you later as you try to identify any bird you see that you may not be familiar with. Need motivation to log your bird sightings? The 15th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins today, February 17th, 2012 and ends February 20th. Take note of each bird you see, how many of each kind and report your findings at www.birdcount.org to help researchers learn how our birds are doing and how better to protect them.
Next, plan on using your ears to listen for each bird’s song. Each species of bird has a unique song and once you gain some experience in birding you will begin to notice the subtle differences in their tunes. Try to write down what sounds you hear from each bird and you may discover that doing so will help you identify the bird later.
Identification of any bird can prove difficult, even for the trained eye (especially if the bird is active). Bird checklists and I.D. information can be found on several websites. For example, www.tnwatchablewildlife.org is a great place to find a very detailed field checklist for Tennessee birds. The National Audubon Society www.audubon.org is another great site to browse when searching for bird information.
I now encourage you to get your birding gear out and be prepared to learn a little about some graceful creatures that share our living spaces.