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Birding for Beginners

Last November, OSS organized Birding for Beginners workshops throughout the South and Central Okanagan. Local birder Matthias Bieber explained the basic steps for bird identification, how to use a guidebook, and how to keep birds safe while attracting them to backyard feeders. Afterwards, participants went on a bird walk to put their new skills to use. Some of the species sighted included Black-capped Chickadees, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Flickers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Brown Creepers.  Want to go birding yourself but don’t know how? Here are a few basic pointers to get you started: 

1) Size/Shape 

How big was the bird? Was it was the size of a sparrow?A crow?  Look at its overall shape, too. Many birds have very distinctive silhouettes – think of the shape of a duck versus a tiny hummingbird versus a robin. Knowing these two things should help you narrow your choices down to just a few bird families in your guidebook. 

2) Behaviour 

What was your bird doing?  Perching at the tip of a twig? Hopping through low bushes? Different bird groups have different behaviours by which they can be identified. Flycatchers perch on the tips of shrub branches looking for flying insects and sparrows hop along the ground and low understory searching for bugs. 

3) Habitat 

Where is your bird living? If you’ve figured out your bird is a type of wren,  knowing whether it is living in some cattails at a marsh or in the brush pile beside your home will tell you definitively whether it is a Marsh Wren or a House Wren. 

Does birding still seem a little bit overwhelming? OSS will be holding more Birding for Beginners workshops through the Okanagan-Similkameen in Spring of 2018!

Watch for announcements of our workshops which will take place in Vernon, Summerland, and Keremeos in March or April.

4) Colouration

What colour is your bird? Grey? Brown? Were there black spots on its breast or white stripes on its head? Looking for certain marks will help distinguish between similar birds. If your guidebook lists several different forest dwelling sparrows, then looking for a rust-striped head versus brown streaks on the breast will tell you whether your bird is a Chipping Sparrow or a Fox  Sparrow.  

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