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Birding – The Best Time To Go

If you have a particular interest in the birds that come through your yard or that you see when you are out, birding might just be the right hobby for you. As of 2020, there are 15.23 million birding enthusiasts. Although they sound remarkably similar, birding and bird watching are not the same thing. Bird watching is exactly that, watching birds as they come and go. 

Birding involves a little more research and a few materials if you want to get the full experience. You will want to bring binoculars, a guidebook, and a notebook to jot down notes or draw pictures. Having a guidebook will allow you to recognize native birds in your area as well as identify wild migratory birds.  

Understanding migration patterns in your area will help you maximize your birding experience. Migratory birds are classified into four distinct categories. A permanent resident is a bird that will stay in your area regardless of the weather and season. A short-distance migrator is a bird that will only migrate a noticeably short distance, such as down the side of a mountain. Medium-distance migratory birds will migrate several hundred miles in search of untapped resources once theirs start to dwindle. A long-distance migratory bird is one that will travel from its normal breeding ground all the way to Central and South America. There are many reasons to factor in when talking about migrating, including day length, lower temperatures, changes in the food supply, and genetic predisposition. 

Once you have discovered which birds are migrating through for a short period or coming to winter in your area, you will want to pay attention to their schedules. Different bird varieties have different schedules. A guidebook or just a bit of research can help you learn more in-depth about a bird’s schedule whilst you are watching them every day. The morning is always the best time to see the most birds when the largest variety are out and about looking for food. During the middle of the day, the majority of birds, whether they are migrating or residents, will not be active. Creating a bird migratory calendar complete with schedules and daily habits is an ideal way not to miss any activity. If you notice certain birds are visiting your backyard more than others, try putting out different bird food specific to the birds flying through. 

Recent studies have shown that many migratory birds do most of their flying at night. Some of these birds to look for during a nocturnal migration are cuckoos, waterbirds, thrushes, warblers, flycatchers, buntings, and orioles. This allows them to avoid predators, control their body temperature and maintain a steady course due to a more stable atmosphere. This aids smaller birds, such as warblers, who can fly as slow as 15 miles an hour. During the day, these birds will take small naps to conserve energy, but they only rest half of their brains at a time, allowing them to stay alert. There are still plenty of diurnal (daytime) migratory birds to observe and joy, including finches, pelicans, birds of prey, swallows, swifts, and storks. 

Not all birds start their migration at the same time. The term “fly south for the winter” does not specifically mean migration starts in the fall. To make bird watching as fulfilling as it can be, look through your guidebook specific to your region to see when different migrations start. Long-distance migrators like summer tanagers migrate during the summer months. These particular birds come from as far as Ohio and Pennsylvania and can be seen all throughout the southern states. The types of birds to look for in the fall would be songbirds, several types of warblers (new world, blackpoll), starlings, American redstarts, hummingbirds, and as many as 50 more species. Many of these species migrate during multiple seasons, so you may have an opportunity to see your favorite wild birds throughout the year.

Whether you are a first-time bird watcher or a long-time birding enthusiast, there is always something new to learn and new species to explore. 

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