Birdwatching tips for beginners

Birdwatching is a great hobby and a fun pastime, giving you an excuse to get out and engage with nature and learn more about the wildlife in your area.

You don’t need to be an expert to go birdwatching or invest huge amounts of money to take it up as a hobby; with little more than a pair of binoculars and a view from your back garden you can enjoy following and learning more about birds.

Want to give it a go? Here’s a few birdwatching tips to get you started.

Start with your eyes and ears

You don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to go birdwatching – your eyes and ears are enough. Take a walk in your local park or sit in the garden and take notice of what you see and hear; learning to recognise different birds and their songs is a good way to get started.

Keep a log

A logbook of what you see and when will help you keep track of the best times to spot your favourite birds and is a good place for you to note down any exciting discoveries. A hardback notebook works best, and use pencil rather than pen, as pencil won’t run if you get caught in the rain. Taking note of shape, beak, legs, habitat and behaviour are all useful facts to collect.

Think about clothing

Don’t forget to consider what you wear. If possible, choose clothing in muted colours and avoid wearing any times of clothing – like a windbreaker jacket – that rustles when you move. Also choose garments that will keep you warm (or cool) and comfortable, and even in winter, make sure you wear a hat to protect yourself from direct sunlight.

Use a field guide

Once you start seeing birds, you may want more information to help identify and learn about them. There are hundreds available, but to begin with stick to a book that contains birds that occur in Britain – or are native to the place you live. The RSPB Handbook of British Birds is a good place to start.

Set up a bird feeder

You don’t need to travel far from home to enjoy birdwatching. Setting up a bird bath or bird feeder in your back garden will help attract local birds so you can watch them more closely at home. A suet or sunflower feeder are both inexpensive and will work for a range of different birds. To create the best environment for birds, place feeders away from the home and in an area of the garden where they can easily see predators. Building up regular visitors takes time – make sure feeders are well stocked, offer heartier options during winter, and most of all, be patient!

Get binoculars

A good pair of binoculars can make bird watching immensely more pleasurable. They range in price from a tenner all the way up to over £1000 – but you don’t need to spend beyond your means. Making an upfront investment will prove more cost-effective in the long term as a good quality pair will last you a lifetime. That said, it’s possible to get a decent pair for about a hundred pounds. If you’re trying to buy cheaply, choose porro prisms rather than roof prisms for better quality at a lower price point. If you are investing in a high end pair, both porro-prisms and roof prisms should be able to provide a clear and excellent view.

Find a birdwatching spot

There are great locations all over the UK where you can see a high concentration of birds in one place. British Bird Watchers has put together a list of 10 spots where you can see birds throughout the year.

Join an event

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be a solitary pursuit. The RSPB runs great events for adults and children throughout the UK, from guided walks to family fun days where you can learn more about birdlife, conservation and ask questions to the experts. Search for events from the RSPB website.

Have you ever tried birdwatching? What are your tips and tricks?




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Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Assistant Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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30th Oct 2017
Thanks for voting!
Find a local patch, if its mixed habitat then you have more chances of different species. Its also good to have some water like a pond or stream.

And my main tip would be, learn patience, pick a spot and sit quietly and gradually you will notice things appearing.
2nd Aug 2017
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Remember not to wear clothes that rustle and keep to low key colours. it is hard to hear birds if you are making a noise so keep quiet. Use slow gentle movements to get closer. respect the wildlife and it will give you oodles of pleasure.
4th Oct 2017
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Thanks for the advice and tips. I've learned a lot on this subject from a good many people that engage with a Silversurfers, including yourself. It's fun and rewarding in equal measure. Since retiring I have been able to enjoy the activity even more. Thank you.
1st Aug 2017
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Thank you for these tips ... I would very much like to take up bird watching ... hopefully this will get me started ...
2nd Aug 2016
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I'm learning lots more by going birdwatching with my local U3A. We have sessions on listening, as welk as looking and get to try out other peoples optics and phone apps. We go birding by the sea and travel to rspb and other wildlife reserves as well as local lanes so I'm learning great places to take the grandkids too.
25th Jul 2016
Thanks for voting!
i love to watch birds in the garden,but for the last 2 years they seem to have vanished,i put food on the bird tray but the pidgeons eat it all and we have magpies in the area but nothing smaller tho i have nests etc,water but doesn't encourage any,and i am so disappointed.have you any ideas of what i can do?

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