8 Tips for Better Birdwatching

Autumn is here, and with it some of the best birdwatching of the year. You can find many fine feathered friends on TVA public lands—but your own back yard will also offer incredible avian views, if you know how to look.

There are many fine birdwatching trails and nature areas in the Tennessee Valley—and some of the best are on TVA public lands. But most beginning bird watchers will find they have plenty to see in their own back yards.

How do you get a good look at a bird so you can identify it? There are things you can do to give yourself an advantage in spotting birds. Grab a good birding guide—such as "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America"—and follow these tips. Soon you'll begin to see your feathered friends are all around you!

  • Stare into the tree canopies and large shrubs for a few minutes. Watch for leaves moving. Try to keep your eyes unfocused so you’ll notice movement in your peripheral vision. Then you’ll know where to focus.
  • Once you’ve located the bird with the naked eye, think about where he is in relation to the rest of the tree: on the right at three o’clock? On the lower left at seven o’clock?
  • Practice finding birds in your binoculars. Don’t take your eyes down to your binoculars—bring the binoculars up to your eyes while keeping your eyes fixed on your bird.
  • Listen for individual bird songs and calls. Birds usually give away their presence by making noise. Try to isolate a nearby song from among the others, and let the music lead you to the bird.
  • If there’s a particular type of bird you really want to see, do some homework on the bird’s preferred habitat, nesting habits and when it tends to be most active.
  • Get out there early. Many birds are early risers and are most active in the time period just before and just after dawn. Searching at 3:00 p.m. may be counterproductive.
  • Place a birdhouse and birdbath in your yard to attract songbirds.
  • There are no secret tricks to finding birds. Keep practicing your skills!

Find out more about our region’s birds and where to find them at the websites for Tennessee Birding Trail and North Alabama Birding Trail.

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