The Beauty of Bird-Watching
A Fun and Educational Outing for the Whole Family
Why settle for marshmallow-candy chicks to celebrate springtime when you can see hundreds of real hawks, warblers, and shorebirds winging home to nest?
If you've never tried your hand (or binoculars) at bird-watching, spring is the perfect season for this fast-growing pastime. Decked out in their most flamboyant courtship feathers and trilling their sweetest mating calls, the shyest of songbirds are now at their most visible. Even beginners won't have to strain to see great clouds of gorgeous birds swirling overhead.
Nearly one in three adult Americans -- 63 million strong -- did some bird-watching last year, whether in their backyard or beyond, according to the U.S. Forest Service. That's up 30 percent from the number recorded in 1995. These enthusiasts are called "birders," and 54 percent of them are women.
Birding has taken flight for many reasons. First, it's safer and less strenuous than some of the outdoor adventures we love to follow on popular nature shows (crocodile hunting, anyone?). It's also a relatively inexpensive, easy, environmentally sensitive, and enjoyable way for families to explore nature together, says John Bianchi of the National Audubon Society.
Many Audubon chapters run nature centers in local parks that can introduce you to birding. Three excellent Web sites to get you started are www.audubon.org, to locate nearby centers and chapters; www.americanbirding.org, the American Birding Association's directory of festivals and events around the U.S., with links to other expert sites; and www.petersononline.com, the home base of the well-known Peterson Field Guides, which has suggestions on when and where to go bird-watching.