We love birds here at our house. Recently we upgraded from our sad, bent (due to the great tree falling of '04) pole system to two fancy new poles with two feeders on each. We now have one each of the following: peanut feeder, thistle feeder, no-mess seed feeder (this is the best seed ever -- you don't get weeds from it!), and a safflower feeder.
Why so many? Well, you get different birds with different seeds and perch types. Since Pete installed the new set up, we have been noticing a wide range of birds. Just today Maddie spotted a bird that we hadn't seen before -- the Red Breasted Nuthatch. We live in northern IL which is where they winter. They are pretty little birds with a bright orange-red belly and beautiful dove grey backs. Their heads are black and white with a striking black line running out from the eye.
When I'm in my kitchen, or up in my office, I love looking out at the birds. There is something very enjoyable and relaxing about it. And Maddie has great eyes -- she always spots the unique birds and brings them to my attention.
So what do you need to get started bird watching?
- Feeder(s) -- You don't need a tree -- now you can even get feeders that you place on the outside of your window with suction cups. But if you have the room, there are beautiful, functional feeder systems out there. We buy all of ours from our local Wild Birds Unlimited. The people who work there are very knowledgeable and can answer pretty much any question you have.
- Seed -- Now, it is possible to go to the grocery and buy big bags of cheap seed, but I'm telling you that you will regret it. Why? Weeds! The cheap seed is full of nasty weed producing seed as well as a lot of filler that the birds won't even eat. So, while it looks like a good deal when you do the math -- don't be fooled. We also buy or seed at Wild Birds Unlimited.
- A Field Guide -- We have an older version of the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. It has lots of pictures which make bird identification easy. It also includes maps which show you the migration patterns of each species.
- Binoculars -- We have a really nice set of binoculars that were passed down to us from Pete's dad, but I have another little set that we bought before or honeymoon in Alaska that was quite inexpensive. You aren't going to be viewing these backyard visitors from too far away, so an inexpensive pair should suffice. Really though, I can't identify a bird with out getting a close-up look at it, so I would say that these are a must if you are at all serious about birdwatching.
That's about all you need, but of course there are all kinds of fancy accessories associated with bird watching as with any other hobby.
I also found some good stuff on the web when I was writing this post today:
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology's online bird quide
- Wikipedia has lots of bird info. This is where I got the freely licensed photo of the nuthatch.
- For those of you also in Illinois -- Birds of Illinois
- For those of you homeschooling, at 50birds.com they have lots of good stuff including realistic bird coloring pages.
Have fun watching the birds in your backyard!