Birdwatching doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Connecting with others who share your fascination with birds can boost your fun and expand your knowledge more quickly. Where can you find other birders — or aspiring birders? Here are some suggestions.
Refuge bird walks are open to all levels of enthusiasts. They’re usually scheduled in advance. Most are free; some require prior registration. Check event calendars of nearby national wildlife refuges, other conservation areas and conservation groups for events. For example, the Friends of Loxahatchee offer regular bird walks at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Florida.
A popular app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird lets you check bird sightings at a place you visit and add sightings of your own. It also makes it easy for you to connect with other birders. What birds are being seen at a refuge near you? Find out in seconds here.
Social Media Groups
Many regional and state birding groups such as MD (Maryland) Birding, Delaware Birding, Birding Oregon and Western Mass Birders have their own Facebook pages. So do many local and regional chapters of Audubon Society and other conservation organizations. Groups are generally open to enthusiasts of all skill levels and interests.
Read a group’s guidelines first to see if it offers what you want. You may need to ask permission to join. By opting in, you’ll see cool bird photos and videos, learn about birds moving through your area, find out about upcoming bird presentations and field trips, and get help on bird IDs.
Other social media groups are oriented to specialized birding topics, such as bird photography, rare birds or difficult bird identifications.
Black birders around the country used the hashtag #BlackBirdersWeek in June 2020 to share their experiences and challenges birding. Check out other conversations under the hashtag #Birders.
No Cause for Shame
Speaking of bird identification, don’t be afraid to ask. The American Birding Association’s Facebook group “What’s This Bird?” aims to be a “safe, nonjudgmental spaces for people who need help identifying birds from photos, recordings or descriptions.”
Local Bird Festivals
Seasonal bird festivals at national wildlife refuges or other sites present great learning opportunities for new birders. You’ll learn alongside others with similar interests. Sign up for field trips with experts and improve your birding skills while meeting other people of all levels of ability and experience. The Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico, is one of the most celebrated of regional bird festivals. Find others here.
Take part in one or more of the celebrated citizen science projects around birds. Your help will be welcome no matter what your experience or birding level. The annual Christmas Bird Count (Audubon), The Big Sit! (Bird Watcher’s Digest) and the Great Backyard Bird Count (Audubon) all offer opportunities to learn with others while you help expand what is known about birds. Did you see a cool bird on a visit to a national wildlife refuge? Add your refuge wildlife sighting and other refuge nature observations to crowd-sourced data at iNaturalist.
Learn from Others
Video: Birds of North America with Jason Ward
Listen: “Jason Ward is Changing the Face of Birding” (3 minutes, WNYC)
Video: “Hope Is the Thing With Feathers”
Orion Magazine: “9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher”
Bird Watcher’s Digest: Getting Started in Birding
How to Start a Life List