Indoor Birding: 5 Ways to Bird Despite Bad Weather

Whether it’s bitter winter weather or just an overly rainy day, you can’t always be outside. I can’t, anyway. My body doesn’t deal with cold well, but I don’t like withdrawing from nature, either. So I find ways to keep birding even though I can’t be outside as much as I would like.

1) Keep a yard list. We have feeders in our yard so I can watch birds by looking out my window. A surprising variety of birds (39 species) visit our suburban yard, and I wouldn’t have realized it if I hadn’t taken the time to really look. Some of the more surprising birds that I’ve seen in our yard: green-tailed towhee, Steller’s jay, great horned owl and common nighthawk. Even on the days that it’s just the usual crowd (house finches, goldfinches, chickadees, and robins), I take the time to look closely. You never know when someone interesting is hiding in the flock.

EPSON MFP image
Taking time to draw the birds in our yard is another way I enjoy nature in winter. (Drawing by Kit Dunsmore)

2) Use eBird to identify local hot spots. While I am waiting for better weather, I try to find new places to bird. The eBird website is a great resource for finding hot spots and for locating rare birds in the area. Thanks to eBird and other online resources, I’ve seen a Harris’s hawk, greater white-fronted geese, and a black-and-white warbler this winter. I’ve gone looking for common redpolls and loons without success, but saw lots of other birds in the process.

3) Study up. I belong to several Facebook birding groups, including Raptor ID and the Colorado Bird Photography group. Both are teaching me how to identify species I see irregularly or have never seen at all by providing photos and talking about field marks. I look at the photos and guess at the species, then look to see what the photographer says. Sometimes the photographer has the ID wrong, so any time I am uncertain, I get out my field guide for help.

4) Study up some more. Being able to recognize a bird’s song can help you identify it as well as locate it, so I am using Larkwire to learn more bird songs. This is an online game that makes memorizing different bird songs more fun. It also includes beautiful photos of each bird which helps you learn their appearance as well as their sounds.

5) Research birding vacation destinations. When it’s too cold to watch birds, I read about them. I just finished Noah Strycker’s Birding Without Borders, and his stories about birding all over the world are guaranteed to get you excited about traveling to see new birds. I also love Bird Watcher’s Digest which includes articles about domestic and international birding hotspots.

Do you bird indoors? How?

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