Birding 101

January 2021

By Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

The winter months in Florida can be a great time for bird-watching. By December, many northern birds have migrated south to spend the winter in warmer climates until their return trip in February. That gives Florida birders the chance to spot birds they can only see for a few months each year. If you’re a beginner bird-watcher eager to get outside, even if it’s just to pick out some flying friends from your own backyard, consider these pointers for what to bring along and a few starting tips for better birding.

What to Have

  • Binoculars — Good binoculars should have numbers on them, like 8 by 36 or 10 by 42. The first number is magnification. The second number is the diameter of the larger, objective lens and indicates how big your field of view is. The larger your field of view, the easier it is to find what you’re looking for. You don’t need to spend lots of money on a new pair of binoculars, so check out the best binoculars under $100 to find a suitable pair.
  • Spotting scope — Spotting scopes require a tripod. They often give much better magnification than binoculars but are not quite as portable. If you’re unsure which spotting scope to purchase, check out the reviews at


  • Practice using binoculars on a sign or something else that doesn’t move.
  • If you have youngsters who are interested in bird-watching, you can find a pair of kids’ binoculars so they can join in the fun with you.
  • Find a bird with your eyes first, then move the binoculars up to look through them.
  • Get started in your backyard, where you can see the same birds day after day and learn them.
  • Bird around your neighborhood, in parks, and around water.
  • Check out “Birding 101,” FWC’s introduction for beginning birders, available at the Florida Birding Trail website.
  • Subscribe to our monthly newsletter “Kite Tales” for great information on birding in Florida.
  • Use the eBird app to help you identify the species you see.
  • Go birding with experienced birders. Attend a birding festival and bird with the experts, or join a local Audubon field trip.

This story originally ran on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website on January 9, 2017.