How to bird watch or a guide to bird watching

You can learn a great deal about the birds of your area without ever leaving your chair. Position a birdfeeder in view of a window and, aided by an illustrated bird guide, watch. In your yard you can observe even more.

When you decide to go farther afield, it helps to go with a knowledgeable friend or join a bird walk at a nature center. Learn what species are likely to occur in the habitat you’ll be visiting and become familiar with them in the guide. The best times of day for bird-watching are early morning and late afternoon, when birds are busy feeding. Spring, when birds migrate and nest, is the season of peak activity-and birds are more visible before tree leaves are full-grown.

Wear dull-colored clothing. Walk quietly, and sit or crouch whenever possible. Try to keep the sun behind you so that you’ll see the birds’ coloring better.

Most bird-watchers use binoculars with a magnification of seven times. To use binoculars, first find a bird with your naked eye. Then, keeping your eyes fixed on the bird, raise the binoculars to your eyes.

To identify a bird, observe its size, its color and markings, its overall shape and proportions, its posture (is it upside down on a pine cone or creeping up a tree trunk, for example?), the shape of its tail, and any habitual actions. If a bird is in flight, watch its motion (does it swoop, glide, bob up and down?). Estimate its length by comparing it to a familiar bird, such as an English sparrow (6 inches) or a robin (10 inches).