Many people consider bird watching, or birding, as it's more properly called, to be nothing more than looking for birds and attempting to identify them. The actual hobby is much more complex, challenging and rewarding than that.
If you're just starting out, three pieces of basic equipment are essential: a good field guide with clear illustrations, a decent pair of quality binoculars and a notebook to record the birds you see. Birders call this a "life list" – a checklist that details each bird seen, as well as where and when the bird was seen. Many birders spend their entire lives seeking birds to add to their life lists. A field bag or backpack will make it easier to carry your items. Of course, good walking shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent are also good to have.
Birding is also easily incorporated into other pastimes, including:
There are many places you could visit around the world. You could be birding in Costa Rica, Bolivia or even Alaska. Nearly every popular destination has vacation options perfect for your own bird watching vacation. In fact, the world over, birding is one of the most popular hobbies. Many tour operators offer comprehensive packages of bird watching tours, with some of the most popular packages being offered by the Audubon Society. Some packages combine other activities: consider walking tours, biking tours – even tours that combine birding with winery tours!
You don't have to travel to enjoy birding, though. In fact, chances are you'll enjoy some of your most rewarding experiences right in your own backyard. If you're interested in adding plants, shrubs or trees to your yard, do a little research to determine which types are preferred by birds for feeding, breeding and nesting. A few houses, suited to the birds you want to attract (yes, different birds prefer different houses), a variety of feeder options – some hanging, plus a pole feeder and a ground station – and a water feature will have birds literally flocking to your yard.