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Richard Broll — May 18, 06:00PM

How do I get better at detecting birds?

I apologize if this is not the forum for this question, but I thought since eBird is all about reporting our findings others here might have some advice on how to become better at making those findings at all.

To summarize, I have been going out looking for birds for 3 years. I have seen almost every species that is local to my area, save a few (so about 200). I have been trying to learn the songs of many, but I am still not very good at it (I can get maybe 35 with confidence). When I go out to a park, wetland, or refuge, I average between 20-25 birds for my checklist. If I can get near 30 I am having a great day. The problem to me seems when I look at the lists of other people going to these same spots they are racking up lists of 40, 50, even higher than 60 sometimes. I don't know what it is that I'm doing wrong to not get as many. My record in all 3 years is about 42 birds, and I've only hit 40 a handful of times.

I read in a book clothing choice can deter birds. Namely, wearing white was considered a warning sign to birds, signaling them to stay away. I make conscious choices to try to wear browns and greens when I go out, but sometimes while wearing white I have seen a lot of birds so I'm not sure if there's merit to this claim. I don't wear cologne or bug spray, so there should be no odors keeping birds at bay. I just wonder if there are very basic habits I never learned that make me less able to draw birds near like these other people.

Any tips for a still relatively newbie that can help me get more birds? Thanks.

meg — May 19, 02:11PM


We find your question perfect for this forum. You are already a good birder. Those 40+ species days are rare in our experience; 200 species is excellent for a new birder especially mostly without much travel.

Improvements? Mostly you gotta' keep at this birding stuff. Participate in local events where other birders will offer advice; read every field guide you or your library have; become proficient with color, pattern, and profile; and be patient.

There are many great resources online too with some of the best and most frequently accessed at Cornell Lab of Ornithology easily keyed through the eBird pages.

We like some of the online opportunities to test our own skill. While there are many self tests, our favorites are at Birder Certification Onliine < >. Both visual and by song as preferred. Fun to attempt and no need to be "certified".

Good birding,


Up rated: 2 Down
Filmore — May 19, 10:53PM

It looks like you've made great progress so far.

Certainly more practice will help, especially going out with one or two companions or going on field trips.

Realize that people who amass large checklists frequently identify many species by sound, so if your hearing is normal, try to concentrate on improving this aspect of your birding skills.

Pay attention to bird behavior. This can be a very useful clue as to identification.

Best of luck.

Up rated: 4 Down

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