How to start


Bird-watching is a fun and easy activity you and your family can do anywhere: in your backyard, on your way to the bus stop, or at a large national or state forest.


When you’re starting out, your eyes and ears are the only equipment you’ll need.


Try to get as quiet as possible and, with a little patience, the birds will come to you.


Now watch how they move. Are they eating? Resting? Interacting with other birds?


What are their songs like? Are their chirps sharp and aggressive? They may be defending their territory. Are they more gentle and melodious? They may be trying to attract a mate.


When you get home try looking up an online bird guide to try and identify the birds you saw.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Make your own binoculars

    Making a set of DIY binoculars can be a fun, easy project. Just cut a cardboard paper towel tube in half, tape the two halves together, and decorate. You can also make a pair of portable binoculars with your own hands.


  • Find a good bird-watching spot

    Look for a place where two habitats meet, like the bank of a stream or edge of a forest. Which birds seem to be year-round “locals”? Are their songs different at different times of day? Start logging all of the birds you see and watch how your list grows over time.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Lightweight rain jacket


Safety Tips

  • Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
  • Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
  • Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.
  • Remember to be mindful of cars when you’re in a park near a road. Wear bright colors for extra visibility.