5 Beginner Birding Mistakes You Should Stop Making

Birding has a bit of a learning curve. Here are 5 beginner birding mistakes and how to prevent them. In the about 7 years I’ve been birding I’ve done all of these things and I’m sure I will do some of them again. This post is aimed for people going out and looking for specific species but can also apply to other aspects of birding

1. Forgetting Equipment

Number one, You forgot an important piece of equipment. There’s nothing worse than getting to your birding location only to realize you left your SD card in your laptop. Make sure that before your next trip, your camera batteries are charged, your SD cards are cleared and formatted, and you have your necessary gear such as a lens cleaning cloth, or other accessories. It’s also important that you have this gear ready at a moment’s notice because you never know when that next rare bird might show up.

2. Not Doing Your Research

Number two, you didn’t do your research. If you’re going after a rare bird it’s a good idea to get as much information about where it has been as possible. Check the eBird and list serve reports and reach out to people and ask. You’ll know more people over time and it will become much easier to do this. One of the worst things is showing up to a location and realizing it’s actually private property or only accessible by boat or something. The more you know beforehand the better. This can also help you build relationships with other birders and gather information you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Recently I went to look for a Couch’s Kingbird, and the eBird location turned out to not be the actual location the bird was being seen. I texted a friend and she gave me coordinates to the actual location nearby. Without this information, it would have been much harder to find the bird.

Check out the video below to see some examples of times we had to do a lot of prior research in order to find our target birds.

3. Jumping to ID Conclusions

Number three, concluding something you found is rare before looking at other options. This is something that happens when you’re normally not familiar with the birds in the area. You see something and look in the field guide or on the Merlin app and think you have the right species, but then you report it and it says it’s really rare. Sometimes spending a little more time with your field guide or searching online can prevent this, but also feel free to ask other birders or post on an ID page online. I will say however, sometimes new birders do find extremely rare birds and they’re correct on their ID. This happened to Ryan and I with a Red-shouldered Hawk, which is a relatively rare bird in Wisconsin. We took pictures of it and had our local naturalist help us with the ID. When we posted it to eBird, the reviewer asked for more information, and we had the photo to back up our sighting. Taking pictures of species you can’t immediately identify in the field also helps when you’re starting out because then they can be reviewed later. 

4. Starting With Expensive Gear

Number four, starting out with really expensive gear, In certain cases I’ve seen new birders get really excited and buy huge lenses and expensive equipment only to be frustrated that they’re not taking the kinds of photos or videos that they want to be taking. For beginners I’d suggest not worrying about having the newest, most high tech gear, and spend more time enjoying nature and learning about new species. I think a more versatile point and shoot camera is great, such as the Panasonic Lumix FZ-80.

Learn more about the Panasonic Lumix FZ-80

If you’re interested in purchasing the FZ-80 please consider using our Amazon Affiliate link by clicking here. We receive a small percentage from qualifying purchases.

5. Waiting to Go See Rare Birds

Number five, Waiting to go see rare birds. This one is tough because most people have work, school, and other commitments they can’t change, but if you want to see the newest rarity that was reported, my advice is to go as soon as possible. Many species can be one day wonders and the sooner you get to the site to try and see it, the better. Now of course, be safe, don’t speed, be reckless, or break any laws, but generally, this is true with most rarities. I remember one time there was a Barrow’s Goldeneye reported a few hours away from Ryan and I waited to go because I wanted to eat something before leaving. I finished my bowl of cereal and we left. Turns out we missed it by about 5 minutes. If I hadn’t eaten that bowl of cereal, we probably would have seen the bird.

All five of these mistakes are understandable and go along with the territory of being a beginner birder. That being said, any of these can still happen to skilled birders as well. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and these five have probably happened to most birders at one point or another.

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