Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Tips for tropical birding

A GLIMPSE: Tropical birds such as a Green Jay skulking in vegetation can be surprisingly hard to see. Art by David Sibley
A GLIMPSE: Tropical birds such as a Green Jay skulking in vegetation can be surprisingly hard to see. Art by David Sibley

Winter is the season when many North American birders take a tropical vacation and discover that seeing birds in dense foliage is not easy! The birds can be spectacular, but it’s sometimes a single bird skulking in the shadows, sometimes 10 or 20 species moving through in a rush, and always seemingly hidden behind leaves. It’s a good chance to practice some basic binocular skills.

Keeping your binoculars at the ready is very important. When you are in one of these “active birding” situations, hold your binoculars in both hands at chin height, ready to aim at a bird. Also check to make sure they’re focused on the right distance. You should be anticipating where the birds will show up, so before any birds appear, just raise your binoculars and focus on that area. This will save the frustration of aiming at a bird and finding that you have to spend three seconds cranking the focus knob around.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a BirdWatching member to access our first-rate articles and columns on bird ID and photography as well as quarterly webinars hosted by experts in the field.

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free
David Sibley

David Sibley

David Sibley writes the column “ID Toolkit” in every issue of BirdWatching. He published the Sibley Guide to Birds in 2000, the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior in 2001, and Sibley’s Birding Basics in 2002. He is also the author of the Sibley Guide to Trees (2009), the Sibley Guide to Birds-Second Edition (2014), and guides to birds of eastern and western North America (2016). He is the recipient of the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson Award for lifetime achievement in promoting the cause of birding and a recognition award from the National Wildlife Refuge System for his support of bird conservation.

David Sibley on social media