Skip to main content

Birdwatching Basics

This bird is a Northern cardinal. Male cardinals are bright red. Female cardinals are tan. Both have a red bill. SANDRA J—500PX/GETTY

Birdwatching is a safe, free, outdoor hobby. A great thing about birding is that anyone can do it. That includes kids. “It’s one of the easiest hobbies to step into,” Tina Phillips says. “All you need is a little bit of natural space. And if you have a pair of binoculars, great. But if you don’t, that’s okay.”

Binoculars help you see birds up close. But birding can be just as much fun without them.


One of the simplest ways to start is by setting up a bird feeder. “That’s going to attract birds to you,” Phillips says. Not sure what kinds of birds are showing up? You can use an app. This will let you identify birds by the sounds they make. The Cornell Lab has a free app. It’s called Merlin Bird ID. The app makes identifying birds easy and fun.

Keep a list of birds you see. You can also keep a list of birds you hope to see. Does your family have a backyard? Do what you can to make it nice for birds. One way to do that is by choosing native plants. The National Audubon Society can help you with that. Let your new hobby take flight. It will be good for you!