A long-tailed tit sits on a twig as the sunshine catches it's puffed up feathers.

Sunlight catches the feathers of a long-tailed tit © Alex Cooper Photography/ Shutterstock

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Birdwatching is not only good for you it also expands your world

The simple act of watching birds opens a window onto a whole other world right on your doorstep. 

Birds are good for you

Research has found that the more birds there are living around you, the better you feel, and that even our mental health is better when there are more birds around us. 

Interacting with nature has also been shown to lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress. You can feel these benefits by noticing nature as you walk to the shops or look out a window.  

Beginners birdwatching tips: Start by noticing the birds you see all the time

Our ID and Advisory Officer Florin Feneru suggests keeping it simple when you begin birdwatching by looking at the birds you see regularly.  

We're used to recognising the faces of our friends and family as well as things like logos. It's this same skill that you'll use to notice birds. 

Florin suggests starting off by noticing the differences between how two birds look. Take a domestic pigeon and a wood pigeon, for example. Notice the difference in their size. Look at whether there's a white patch on the neck? Are there patterns on the feathers?  

Next try noticing how the birds behave. Say you spot a bird that looks like a pigeon but it's up in the trees and seems afraid of people. This behaviour suggests it could be a stock dove instead of a pigeon.  

Two domestic pegeons standing together looking in different directions

How does the domestic pigeon look different to other pigeons you might see in cities and towns? © vagabond54/ Shutterstock

Two wood pigeons leaning in to each other with a brick wall behind them

The wood pigeon is a little larger than the domestic pigeon and has a white patch on its neck. © Paul Maguire/ Shutterstock

A stock dove sits on a branch

A stock dove is about the same size as a domestic pigeon but is generally more shy of people. Unlike a domestic pigeon, a stock dove does not have a pale rump. © Andrew M. Allport/ Shutterstock

In the beginning, you might find it tricky to tell the difference between birds, says Florin, but that's ok, the more you do it, the better you'll get. It takes time to train your eyes and brain to see the differences. 

Notice how the birds are behaving 

When you look at a bird and think 'ah there's a robin', can you also start to notice how it behaves? 

How close can you get to it before it flies away? You might find that some birds are happier to be around people than others. For example, a domestic pigeon is generally more tolerant of people than a wood pigeon. 

Other types of behaviour might start to stand out to you. What does the bird like to eat? Where does it like to build its nest?  

If you have a bird feeder, you might start to notice which birds chase other birds out of the way to get to the food.

If you have a dog or a cat, do birds react or notice when they're around? 

Which bird is that?  

There are a few regular birds around town that you'll soon recognise. See if you can spot these going about their busy day. 

Birdwatching from a flat or apartment

If you live in a flat, you might be able to see birds from your window. You can also encourage birds to visit your home by attaching a bird feeder to your windowsill. Blackbirds and blue tits are regular visitors to urban bird feeders. 

If you're thinking about installing a bird feeder, you might need to be mindful of creating food waste from falling seeds and husks. Bird poo might also pose an issue for a downstairs neighbour. 

If a bird feeder isn't an option, then having a window box could be another way to attract birds, which might use it to nest, feed or rest.  

Listen out for birdsong

One way you can tell what birds are around is by listening to their songs. 

Make a record of the birds you see

If you can, it's a good idea to keep track of the birds you see. Start by making a list of all the different birds you've seen around where you live.

A simple pocket bird guide that includes pictures of the birds you might see could be helpful. 

Websites, such as the RSPB, are useful places to look up different birds. 

Free apps, such as Merlin Bird ID, include lists of birds you might see in your area and help you identify a bird based on its song or how it looks.   

Birdwatching is something many of us do already without even realising. Just taking the time up to look up and think 'oh there's a jay' is the essence of being a birdwatcher.  

You might end up not only knowing the difference between a starling and a blackbird, but also finding great joy as you discover the personalities and peculiarities of the bird world. 

A woman holds some binoculars and looks up to the tree tops looking for birds. It's a sunny day and there are plants and flowers are in the background.

Birdwatching is a journey of your own making © KANGWANS/ Shutterstock

Ready for more birdwatching?

Want to take your birdwatching to the next level? Follow our six easy steps.