Close up photograph of a chickadee in a tree. There is a blue sky in the background, and other branches with pine needles are visible.

Winter birdwatching tips

Though winter is often perceived as a quiet season, it can come alive with the enchanting melodies and vibrant plumage of our feathered friends. Whether you’re watching from the warmth of your sofa or standing in the crisp air, there are a few tips you can follow to make the most of your bird-watching adventure.

Tips for Winter Birdwatching:

  1. Get the gear: Dressing in layers is key. Thermal wear, waterproof outer layers, and insulated boots will keep you warm and comfortable during your birdwatching excursion. Pay particular attention to keeping your extremities (hands, head, and feet) warm.
  2. Invest in binoculars: A good pair of binoculars is essential for spotting distant birds. CLC recommends binoculars with a wide field of view and good low-light performance for winter conditions. Don’t have binoculars? Visit your local library to check out a Nature Explorer Backpack!
  3. Choose the right location: Select birding locations wisely. CLC properties like Ooms and Overmountain provide diverse habitats attracting a wide array of winter birds.
  4. Learn bird calls: Familiarize yourself with common bird calls before heading out. The winter landscape may be quieter, making it easier to identify birds by their distinct calls. Using an app like Merlin can help you hone your ear.
  5. Patience is a virtue: Winter birdwatching may require more patience, as birds are often camouflaged against the snowy backdrop. Take your time and enjoy the serene beauty of the winter landscape.
  6. Bring a field guide: A field guide to local birds will be a valuable companion! Stop into the library, a local bookstore, or download the eBird app.
  7. Join an event: CLC organizes guided birdwatching tours led by experienced naturalists. Joining a group provides an excellent opportunity to learn from experts and share the experience with fellow enthusiasts. Mark your calendar now for the Great Backyard Bird Count February 17.
  8. Contribute to community science: Documenting your sightings helps researchers understand bird populations and their behaviors. Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project Feederwatch or the Christmas Bird Count.

Whenever you head outside, remember to bring water and snacks, familiarize yourself with the trails you’ll be visiting, and tell a friend where you’re going and when you expect to return. Visit to plan your next birdwatching trip or winter hike.

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