People birding in a green space.

How to Start Birding

If you’ve been considering joining the millions of people who enjoy birds, there's no better time than the present to take the plunge—or at least dip your toes in. But wait. Where should you go? How do you even find a bird? Are there apps for that? (Yes.) Do you need special gear? (No, but it can make things easier.) If you're a novice, this handy primer will give you the tools you need to venture into the field with confidence.

Get outside.

Birds are everywhere, but sometimes it can be challening to find them. Good news! This is a skill you can develop. Once you’ve found one, you might want to figure out what you’re looking at. Here's how you do it.

Know where to go.

You don’t have to stray far from home to go birding: Any green space or open water source will do. Use virtual maps to pinpoint good spots and plan your itinerary right from home. These are the types of places you can check out around you.
A group of white birds stands in wetland

Where Can You Find Birds?

The simple answer: Everywhere.

Review safety practices for both you and the birds.

Prepping for your first big birding outing means more than studying your field guide (though you should do that, too). Birding can be an adventure, but it should never be reckless. Study the American Birding Association's set of guidelines to help you minimize your impact on birds and other wildlife, and be sure you know how to keep yourself safe, as well. Finally, developing a quick pre-birding routine can save you a lot of pain in the long run: Check the weather, consider the sun and insect situation, and look up your local species occurrences prior to any outing.

Gear up.

Every hobby has its essential gear, and birding is no exception. All you need to get started on backyard birding is a field guide, a weather-proof notebook, and an easy-to-use birding app. If you want to take it to the next level, binoculars are a very useful tool. Here are our picks.
Guides and Journals
Not only does the Audubon Bird Guide App (free) feature calls, songs, and in-depth info about 810 species, it also draws on the continuously updated eBird database to help you find specific birds near you. The Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North  America ($19) is a favorite among new birders. You’ll want to record the varied birds you’re identifying, and the waterproof Rite in the Rain Birder’s Journal ($8) ensures that inclement weather won’t destroy those precious notes. 
The one piece of equipment that everyone asks about is binoculars. "Do I need them? And if so, which pair should I buy?" The short answer to these questions is "It depends." Binoculars are great tools for getting closer looks at birds. They come at a range of price points, but our recommendation is to save up until you can afford a pair in the $120 to $180 range, where the optics are good enough to enhance your bird-viewing experience, not hinder it.
For more information on birding gear, visit our Audubon Guide to Binoculars for the best bins in every price range!​
A group of people holding binoculars
Gear Advice

How To Choose Your Binoculars

When it comes to birding, your looking glass makes all the difference.
Two handw holding two phones, the two people have binoculars
Gear Advice

The Best Birding Apps and Field Guides

Your smartphone alone can give you access to hundreds of species.
On the right a stack of bird guide seats on the ground, on the left a person wearing boots.
Gear Advice

What Bird Guide Is Best For You?

Whether you’re just getting started or looking for the perfect warbler app, you’ll find the right guide here.

Join the club.

Ready to see who else is out there? Meetups, chapters, online communities—there are plenty of ways to tune in and meet other birders. Read on for ideas on how you can make those connections.
Four people seeing from the back hold binoculars
The Birding Scene

How To Meet Other Birders

First, grab your bins. Then, go out and find some . . . people.

Find Your Muse

Scroll through our online bird guide (available in English and Spanish) to get a glimpse of some eye-popping species. (They’ll look even better in real life.)