Summer is for the Birds: Birding Basics

A couple in the woods, one looking through a pair of binoculars.

Do you ever notice bird sounds outside your window, or catch sight of fluttering movement in the canopy during a walk in the park?

There are about 330 native species of birds in Florida, and you can find many of them in Florida State Parks.

Bird

A plover and a sanderling, two small types shorebirds that can be found on beaches.

Birding, or observing birds in their natural habitat, can be an incredibly rewarding activity. Birding can be as simple as watching chickadees from your window, or gearing up with boots and binoculars to find a rare species deep in a state park.

How do you begin birding in your neighborhood or in your favorite state park? We broke a typical birding session down into four basic steps.

  1. Prepare! We recommend having a field guide to help identify the birds you see, binoculars and even a camera if you want to snap pictures. Don’t forget the basic supplies for spending a while outside, like bug spray, sunblock and a water bottle.
  2. Go find some birds! Different species of birds live in different habitats. Some, such as the yellow-throated vireo, spend their time high in the tree canopy and might be difficult to spot. Others, like the brilliantly colored green heron, spend their time on the banks of lakes. Consider what kinds of habitats are at the park, like forest, marsh or beach, and what birds you might find there.
  3. ID that bird! The first clues to a bird’s identity are its behavior and location. Is it stalking the banks of a river? Zipping from branch to branch? Soaring overhead on wind currents? You can use these clues to narrow in on what type of friendly flyer it may be. Once you can get a closer look, make note of patterns on the wings or head as well as its size and color. Listen for songs and calls as well. Bird sounds, besides often being pleasant to listen to, can be an important hint for identifying small or hard-to-see birds.
  4. Find more birds! When you first start birding, your list might fill up fast with sightings of the most common birds, but others are more challenging to find. Florida State Parks are great for birding because they protect habitat for many types of common and more elusive birds.

These are just the basics, but one of the great parts of birding is just how much there is to learn. There’s always another species to see, or interesting and sometimes even funny bird behavior to observe. The best advice for having a good time birding is to just get outside, be observant and have fun!

Find a state park near you