Even with something as straightforward as birdwatching, it’s important to be prepared, especially if you’re watching them in remote areas during the winter. Take a minute to check the weather report before you head out and dress accordingly. If you’re going out into snow, make sure that the boots you wear will keep your feet warm and dry. Finally, if you’re going by yourself, make sure to tell a friend or family member where you intend to go.
In the majority of bird species, it is the males that tend to be more colorful. It’s up to them to impress a potential mate, and they use color to impress. Many of the most colorful species, such as the cardinal and bluejay, are more aggressive in the winter, too. They’re not just competing for mates; they’re competing for food, too. When birds are more aggressive to one another they become more animated and much easier to spot.
You’re most likely to spot winter birds in areas that offer some sort of open water. A word of caution, though, always be aware of what’s under your feet. Oftentimes when near a shoreline in the winter you’re not able to really tell when the ground beneath you is indeed the ground, and few things are as dangerous as falling through thin ice. So be careful. Always.
Orchards provide food and shelter for a great variety of birds in the winter. Although the fruit is usually picked by the time snow falls, there are plenty of scraps left over for the birds. Further, the rows of trees provide a really good shelter from the wind.
If you’re looking to spot birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, and eagles, you need to search for open spaces that don’t have too much snowfall. Birds of prey have exceptional eyesight, and they spend the bulk of their time gliding high above the open space, waiting and watching for rodents that live in the field.
Birds love berries. Wherever you are in the world, whatever the season, when you find a surplus of wild berries you’ll find a surplus of birds there to eat them. Some berries, such as those that come from the very common Mountain Ash (with bright orange berries), are actually intoxicating to the birds, so you get an extended show when the birds begin acting funny.
If you don’t have the ability to get out into the wilderness, or don’t feel like leaving the house, there are things you can do within your own back yard to attract birds throughout the winter. Remember, food for birds is scarce in these cold months, so any sort of food you put out will be eaten. But some things, like blocks of fat called suet (soo-et), can be purchased at your local hardware store and hung right outside your favorite bird watching window.
In the winter, birds are constantly looking for dependable shelter. Nothing in the wilderness offers more protection for a small bird than the boughs of a coniferous tree. In the early morning and at dusk, if you approach a large evergreen tree, you can hear hundreds of different birds in there, so it’s a good spot to park yourself for a while and watch as each species comes out to meet the day.