Bird-watching is an exciting activity which involves observing birds,
and studying their habits and behavior. Adults, teenagers, and
we, children, enjoy it during our spare time. Bird-watchers can simply watch the birds and enjoy their songs in their
free time. However, some of them can also distinguish types of
birds and their sounds.
They often know the habitats or nesting
and breeding habits of certain birds.
Where can you find birds
The graceful or
powerful flight of the birds of prey can be seen in various
places all over the world - in mountains, valleys, forests,
farmlands, near seas and marshes, or in urban
areas. No matter where you are, just look around – one is hiding
among the branches of a tall tree in the mountain, another one
is perching on a power pole or city fence, and still another is
in your backyard. However, each species has adapted to certain
High mountains and upland heaths attract eagles, goshawks, buzzards,
Eagle flies in
the sky up to super
heights and scans the ground in search of prey with its powerful
sight – that’s where the expression “eagle eyed” comes from.
Vultures, falcons and Eagle-owls prefer rocks
Falcons nest mostly on rock cliffs and
Deciduous forests (oak, beech, pecan, common lime) are a favorite
Grassland, farmland and valleys are a typical habitat for
Peregrines, for instance, strike and capture
their prey in flight, a strategy that requires open space.
Marsh Harriers and
Ospreys hunt near marshes, swamps and moors because
they eat fish.
Ospreys, for example, need to catch about
fish a day. A daddy
Osprey needs to provide food for 2-3 babies
and a mate and has to catch 6-8 fish a day.
A lot of raptors have adapted to man-made environments and can survive
in towns and cities. You can see kestrels and Black
Kites flying by highways or perched on a telephone post,
power pole or wire. These birds can cause problems at some
airports because they collide with aircraft. The
Barn Owl builds its
nests in barns, old buildings, or city ruins.
When do you go bird-watching?
Time of the day:
For diurnal birds of prey (those that hunt during the day) the best
in the morning or at dusk – 1 to 2 hours after dawn and
2 hours before the sunset. The ideal time to start is at
7a.m. and to finish at 11a.m. At that time of the day, the
raptors are most active because their preys are most active and
the raptors are starving after the long night.
Eagles and hawks use
to help them take off and soar.
That’s why most probably we can see them a few hours after
sunrise, when the air warms up and the thermals are developed.
For the nocturnal birds of prey (those that hunt during the night) the
best time is between 11p.m. and 3 a.m. The male eagle owl
attracts a partner with a mating call which
can be repeated more than 700 times per night.
Days with strong winds or heavy rain are not suitable for bird-watching
because it’s not likely that the birds will fly around.
Months: The most popular months for birdwatching are February, March, May,
and October. In February,
birds of prey try to find territory where they can build their
nests. Many of them will return to the same place year after
year. They fly around a lot and their songs claim their own
breeding territory. March is the month of courtship flying.
Male birds of prey attract the females with songs or wonderful
Peregrine performs various acrobatic movements in
order to attract a mate. Even the Marsh Harrier which is a shy
and quiet bird of prey, uses its voice a lot during courtship
flying. In April, the birds of prey usually hatch their eggs and
may not be flying around a lot. In May, the adult-raptors are
busy flying and providing food for their babies. In June, young
fledglings are learning to fly, so you could see how some of
them fall off the trees.
What equipment do you need?
Although we can watch birds without buying any special equipment,
there are a few things which might help us see, hear, or record
birds of prey better and make our bird-watching trip far more
enjoyable. Binoculars and telescopes offer magnification and bring the bird closer
Binoculars: Choose your pair of binoculars carefully. An important thing is not to
strain your eyes when you look through them.
They should have good
magnification combined with bright and steady image. 7 x 35
power is not a bad choice for beginner bird-watchers. The
focusing wheel should be comfortable for your fingers – easy to
reach and smooth to turn. It’s also good to know if you
will use the binoculars in the daytime or at twilight, too. There
are binoculars great for viewing during dusk or mist or in bad
weather conditions. For children, size and weight is also
very important – minimum weight with the maximum optical
performance is the best choice, for sure. However, for parents
price might be a factor in choosing your binoculars.
Telescopes offer higher magnification than binoculars but they are
heavier and more expensive. They have three main parts –
eyepiece, body, and tripod. The eyepiece provides different
magnifications. Usually it has a terrific lens system for color
accuracy and detail. The tripod is used to support the body and
its height can be adjusted for kids or for taller people. At my
bird-watching trip I was given a wonderful telescope with a zoom
eyepiece. The view of a buzzard perching on a tree was
fantastic. It was as if I could reach it and touch it with my
If you see a bird of prey you don’t know, you may take a photo of it and
later it will be much easier to identify – by showing
the picture to an expert or by comparing it to the pictures in
your field guide. If bird-watching becomes your hobby, it
will be worth buying a camera with very strong lenses and zoom.
Digital Binoculars with
camera: Technology can help you greatly in your birdwatching and
bird-identification. The binocular part will help you enjoy your
raptor in the sky and the integrated camera will take a photo or
a video clip which you can later share with your friends and
relatives. Isn’t it great?
It’s awfully difficult to describe the
sound that a bird of prey makes. An MP3 player comes in
handy. You could record what you hear and later play it
back for identification by a more knowledgeable person.
If you have a good mobile phone you could use it as a camera or
How do you take care of your equipment?
You should take good care of your bird-watching equipment. Store your
pair of binoculars or your telescope appropriately – in their
own case in a dry and safe place. When you travel to the
bird-watching spot, try not to hit it or drop it. If it rains
during your bird-watching trip, wipe the equipment dry
immediately after you finish using it. Wipe the lenses of your
camera and binoculars with clean soft cloth.
What else do we need?
A journal. Regardless of whether we are young or old, geniuses or not, we all
forget things. Our raptor-watching trip seems exciting and
unforgettable, we have a clear picture of the bird of prey in
our minds, but then bit by bit it is almost all gone. So, we
need something to help us remember. A journal.
Take a notebook
and jot down about the birds you observe. The journal can also
include drawings of the bird; funny things or disastrous things
that happened to you on your bird-watching trip and any thoughts or
feelings you may have had. When you are writing in your journal, it can also
help you pay attention to details and think about the meaning of
a certain bird-behavior you observe.
Your journal should be
pocket-size, so that it can fit easily into your bird-watching
kit or rucksack. It’s good if it has plastic covers, in case it
Instead of a journal, you could have a
Dictaphone – talk into it and later,
with its software which recognizes voices, you could print it
out and edit it. This is way more
money than that journal, though.
Sample Journal entry
Time of the day:
Description of the bird of prey:
Class, order, family, species:
How can a bird-watcher identify a raptor?
There are illustrated books with descriptions of birds. They are called
field guides. They are designed to help people identify the bird
they see. Choose your first field guide carefully. On one hand, a field guide with
paintings is very valuable because the artists draw all bird
features which help you distinguish between the different
species. These distinguishing features are called field marks.
Photographs, on the other hand, display the real image of the
bird and they can be very helpful, especially when studying the
details of a bird.
Before leaving for the bird-watching trip, study how the book is
organized – if the birds are in an alphabetical order or in
family, genus, species order. Then flip through the pages of the
field guide and try to remember at least some of the birds which
are common for your bird-watching spot. So, you will know what
species to expect to see.
What characteristics are
used to identify a raptor?
Although most raptors
adapt to different habitats, they are most often seen in certain
Ospreys – wetlands;
kestrels – cities and towns.
Size of the raptor.
You can mentally compare it to a popular bird you know. For
example if its size is similar to the size of a raven, it may be
but it can not be a
When the birds of prey fly, their silhouettes are different.
Looking for their prey (fish),
and harriers fly close
to the water or ground. That’s why they have long, rounded wings
for stability. The
has long, narrow wings and
tail. Here are some common silhouettes:
flies with slow wing beats. The Little
long, rounded wings and rapid wingbeats. The
wingbeats and it glides from time to time.
The color of the
feathers is the most striking thing in a bird and it can help you
greatly identify the bird of prey. But be careful, the back, the
wings and the underparts often have different colors. For
example, the male
rusty-brown back, blue wings and black-spotted underparts. It’s
amazing but sometimes you can recognize the raptor from the color of its talons or
Falcon has yellow talons, feet and legs and
a hooked slate-blue beak. The eyes of the raptors are also of
various colors. The face of the
Owl has dark areas around
yellowish eyes and it looks like as if it is frowning.
Behavior can be very useful for identifying a bird. The kestrel
is hovering in the air - no wonder people call it “windhover.”
Peregrine Falcon flies at high altitude, and it dives at its
prey with high speed. Vultures are nesting in the rocks, while
goshawks are nesting in conifer.
Eagles are masterful
flyers, they get to speeds up to 80mph and they often hunt from
Getting ready for a
Join a bird-watching group.
Since we are children, it’s not a good idea to go on our own.
Choose a bird-watching spot.
Try to find out what species of
the birds of prey you might see there. Look through your field
Put your bird-watching
equipment in one compact rucksack or bag – binoculars (if you
have any), field guide, bird-watching journal, pen, etc.
Take a bottle of water and a
Wear camouflage or dark clothes, so that you can blend with the nature
around you and the birds might not feel your presence.
Put on warm clothes because you
may stand on one and the same place for a long time. If it’s
summer, put on a cap because it might become very hot out there.
It is important to follow these rules whenever
you go bird watching:
quiet so that you don't disturb birds of prey.
sure to NOT
frighten birds of prey from their nests – they might
not come back.
care of the habitat while you are watching.
Keep your area clean.
Be careful how you move or talk. Do not make fast
moves and do not shout.
Watch out for the reactions of the
birds of prey. If you observe any nervousness or discomfort in
them, back off.
Follow my first bird watching trip!
4 Jan. 2008.
Bird Spotting Scopes.
27 Dec. 2007.
Bird Watching Journals: Preserve
Your Bird Watching Experiences. 29 Dec. 2007.
27 Dec. 2007.
Digital Binoculars With Camera.
29 Dec. 2007.
Green, Jen. Birds.
Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens, 1998.
Identification Tips. 29 Dec.
Ohridski, Kliment. Getting
to Know Our Birds. Bulgaria: Bulgarian University
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