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5 Steps to Start Birding

Posted on December 10, 2020

We find ourselves staring out the window more than usual these days. The ever-changing portraits of our front windows absorb our interest, and with the shifting winds and changing seasons, new characters fly in and out of our view.  

What was once taken for granted has now become an early morning highlight for many. Being at home has given us the chance to appreciate our surroundings and enable us to get acquainted with our neighbours who fly high above our heads. 

A white, black and red bird sits on a tree branch in a winter forest.

Birding is a peaceful and fulfilling activity, and the best part is, you already have the tools. Bird watching is a fantastic way to practice mindfulness and to appreciate your surroundings. We encourage you to spend some time taking in the outdoors, and learn more about improving your birding experience by following these five steps.


The first step to bird watching is easy, just look outside! Get a feel for your natural surroundings and look for nests, foliage, and most importantly, birds! Try not to only see your surroundings but absorb what you’re looking at. You’ll often find you’ve missed beauty that’s been hiding the entire time. 

Two young owls peer down at the camera from their nest in a tree.


Looking outside is a great way to start your bird watching journey, but sometimes it’s hard to catch all the little details from so far away. Buying binoculars is a great way to enhance your experience and analyze the vibrant colours and rough edges each bird has to offer. Binoculars can range from tens of dollars to thousands, here are some recommendations for great mid-quality binoculars to start exploring and to find what level you’re comfortable with. 


Now that you’ve found some birds, it’s time to get familiar with who you are looking at. There are over 50 species of winter birds in Manitoba alone, and over 400 during the summer months. This may seem overwhelming at first, but there are tools you can use as your birding index while observing the rare wildlife Manitoba has to offer.

Here are a variety of resources for your bird watching pleasure to help identify, catalogue, and explore new birds. If you are looking for a more modern approach, you can always check out free bird identification apps like Merlin Bird ID or Peterson Birds of North America.

A pair of hands in leather gloves holds black binoculars at chest height.


Once you have the proper tools, and you know what to look for, it’s time to bring some birds to your backyard. Building or buying a bird feeder can increase biodiversity around your home by adding a mirage of colourful songbirds. You can find a few ideas on how to make your own bird feeder here, or check out FortWhyte Alive’s Nature Shop for a variety of different feeders and feed.

An important side note, many birds’ share the same behaviour when eating. Birds tend to perch, eat, and repeat. You can optimize your birding by creating a small perch to put next to your feeder. Not only do perches create a friendly habitat for feeding, but they can also create a safer and more comfortable environment for the birds! This will help you observe your winged friends without constantly having to watch them fly back and forth between tree branches or other standing objects.

Two birds perch on a bird feeder filled with black seed.


Your final step to birding is getting outside! A bird feeder will bring lots of birds to your backyard, but no bird feeder can compare to mother nature. Expand your hobby and explore some of the amazing environments Manitoba has to offer. Change your habitats to view different species of birds. You can find amazing habitats close to Winnipeg like Birds Hill Provincial Park, Beaudry Park, or Omand’s Creek. Once we reopen at FortWhyte Alive, visit us to ask our Nature Interpreters about the migratory patterns and behaviour of the countless birds you’ll find in our forests.

Once you’ve gotten some experience bird watching, you can move into cataloging, photographing, and sharing! There are large communities of avid bird watching and sharing groups in Winnipeg who support and challenge one another. The birding community welcomes all experience levels, so jump right in by joining the Manitoba Birding Facebook group to connect with other birders. 


Looking to capture your birding experiences? Check out our 5 Tips for Beginner Bird Photography.