Getting started

Make your birdwatching count

You can have fun and add to our understanding of birds at the same time. Plus, learn 7 great ways you can support bird conservation.
Published: 2/14/2012

As a fledgling birdwatcher, you’ll soon discover that there are many fun and rewarding ways for you to get involved with your new hobby. Your first step should be subscribing to BirdWatching magazine, but that shouldn’t be your only step.

You can also join a local Audubon chapter or birding club. Doing so is easy and inexpensive, you’ll learn firsthand about area hotspots, and you’ll get to participate in events that promote the welfare of birds. What’s more, you’re guaranteed to widen your circle of friends.

Bird banding. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Bird banding. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Citizen science

An equally pleasurable way to get involved in birding is through volunteer citizen-science projects such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project Feeder Watch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Participants in the Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society, venture out to count birds during a two-week period each winter. “Feeder watchers” and backyard bird counters stay home. Following procedures developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they count birds that visit their feeders. All three projects contribute much to our understanding of birds. Learn about other ways to participate by visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Citizen Science page.

Report what you see

Two additional excellent ways you can contribute to our understanding of birds is by reporting banded birds to the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and by reporting your bird sightings to eBird.

eBird is a valuable database of bird sightings being constructed by thousands of birdwatchers across the continent. Developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, eBird will soon become a vast source of bird and environmental information useful not only to bird watchers but to scientists and conservationists the world over.

Conservation

The opportunities are abundant and their promise is great, but it’s a sad fact that populations of many bird species are declining. Only by sharing your new hobby with others (and especially with children), living in an environmentally friendly way, voting with care, and supporting habitat preservation can you be sure that the birds we see today will still be around to delight us tomorrow.

Make a difference

Information about citizen-science projects and organizations devoted to habitat preservation is only a mouse click away.

American Bird Conservancy

ABC is the only U.S.-based, group dedicated solely to overcoming the greatest threats facing birds in the Western Hemisphere. It is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership organization. Members receive ABC’s quarterly magazine, Bird Conservation and the ABC newsletter, Bird Calls, which is produced three times a year.

Birders’ Exchange

Many researchers, educators, and conservationists in the Neotropics work without basic birding equipment and educational materials. Birders’ Exchange takes new and used items and matches them with scientists, conservationists, and educators in Latin America and the Caribbean.

BirdLife International

BirdLife International is a global partnership of conservation organizations. Its aims are to prevent the extinction of bird species; maintain and improve the conservation status of all birds; conserve, improve, and enlarge sites and habitats important for birds; help, through birds, to conserve biodiversity and to improve the quality of people’s lives; and to integrate bird conservation into sustaining people’s livelihoods.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The lab is a nonprofit membership institution whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Programs range from research, citizen science, and conservation work to the development of dynamic educational and multimedia resources for the study and appreciation of birds. Many programs offer opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about birds and the scientific process by participating in real, hands-on research projects.

Duck Stamp

The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or Duck Stamp, raises money to fund wetland and grassland acquisition in national wildlife refuges. About $25 million is collected per year, mostly from hunters. At $15 each, and offering free entry for a year to all refuges, the stamp is a good old-fashioned bargain. As a conservation donation, it is unparalleled. About $14.70 (98 percent) of the price of each stamp funds the addition of habitat. It’s simply the most efficient application of your money to conservation.

National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation was founded in 1936 as a nationwide federation of grassroots conservation activists. It advances conservation initiatives through action and education, working hand-in-hand with its affiliates and other like-minded groups and citizen-activists across the country and around the world. Efforts focus on restoring and protecting wildlife and wild places, along with working to improve the health of the environment upon which we all depend.

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life on Earth. Its mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.

National Audubon Society

Audubon’s network of nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations engage people of all ages and backgrounds. The society’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.