7 Tips for Winter Birding

Escrito em 25 de novembro de 2021

7 Tips for Winter Birding

Winter is coming and despite the cold, the season is actually very good for birdwatching. Winter tends to be a quiet season where wild animals (as well as humans!) hideaway from the cold, waiting for warmer days. However, birds don’t hibernate. So, birdwatchers are, in fact, lucky as they can see birds in the wild all year-round. 

On the other hand, from a beginners perspective, winter may be the best season to start birdwatching. Especially if you live in the northern areas, where not as many bird species are present during winter. So, new birders have more time and opportunities to develop their bird identification skills before the arrival of spring. 

As we love to birdwatch in the winter, we want to share with you some tips to boost your mood and motivation for this winter. 

1. Make a list of winter bird species.

Do some homework writing down the name of every possible bird species that you can observe in your area. They can either be resident species or wintering species. For that, you can use field guides and/or online platforms such as eBird

Be ready to spend some time compiling your list as it is likely to belong. Yet, take the best profit out of it, improving your identification skills and learning the phenology of the species.


2. Take care of the birds in your backyard.

During winter you can use the time to create and place bird shelters and bird feeders. If you already have some, give them some maintenance and cleaning or adjust the food mixture to the season. 

Alternatively, you can also check your boxes for evidence that birds are using them as nighttime roosts. Sparrows, Starlings, Wrens, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers are just a few possibilities. 

For either case, you can keep records creating a backyard/garden journal. 


A Bullfinch and two Great tits using a bird feeder.

3. Look for tracks.

It may not be as fascinating as looking for mammals’ tracks, but looking for bird prints is another outdoor activity you can enjoy during winter. 

The bird tracks left behind in the snow can be fun to look for particularly with kids, plus it can give us a great indication of what birds were there and what they were doing. 

4. Listen to the Owls.

Another delightful activity to do in the winter is to step outside during the night and take a moment to listen to owls. January and February are the best for owling (owl observation), as it is the courtship and nesting time for them. This means that they will be very active in communicating with potential partners or rivals.

Of course, that will depend on the surrounding you have near you, nevertheless, you can challenge yourself to discover new “life” around you. You might not have owls in your area, but there’s much more than owls during the night. So, just explore and listen to the sounds of the night.


A Short-eared Owl.

5. Visit a birding hotspot or sanctuary.

In case you live in an urban area, gather your gear and family or invite some friends and go for a visit to a birding hotspot or sanctuary near you. There you will have the chance to observe species that are unlikely to be seen near cities. 

As we mentioned before, some of the best options for winter birding are open water areas and habitats combining forest areas and prairie lands. The former are good places to observe aquatic birds like ducks, gulls, loons and grebes. The latter is perfect to gather forest bird species such as woodpeckers, tits and so on, and flocks of birds feeding in prairies like geese and swans.


A group of birdwatchers in an open water area in the Netherlands.

6. Invest in winter clothing.

This is a crucial aspect when birding in the winter. For you to be safe and cosy during your winter birdwatching, you need good clothing to protect you from the elements and keep you warm and dry. 

Here are some things you need to have or invest in:

- Insulated outwear - a layer that must keep you insulated from the elements. Things like gripping and waterproof shoes and a waterproof coat. They shouldn’t be too much thicker, as it tends to be heavier and makes it harder for you to move.

- Baselayers - always better to layer up than using fewer thicker clothes. Consider synthetic or natural fibres that will better help you regulate your temperature. Use long and insulated socks;

- Hat and gloves - a lot of body heat is lost through the body extremities. So, you should always have a hat and a pair of gloves with you.


7. Keep a journal.

A journal may be the perfect tool for you to register birds behaviours and main features that will help you to improve your birding skills. Over time, you will be amazed by the things you witness during the season.

Additionally, you can use your journal to record the timings of arrival and departure of bird species or their abundance over the winter.

Remember, some of the things to write in a journal include sighting location, date, time, weather conditions, bird behaviour, arrival and departure dates, and interesting notes you would like to remember later. 


Birdwatching Journal by B Journal Editions.