During these winter months, many of us enjoy watching and feeding the birds. Birding has become one of Wisconsin’s most popular outdoor recreational activities. It ranges from an inexpensive hobby to an expensive passion for people of all ages. Dane County Extension has a publication Birding in the Badger State & Beyond by David Drake, Scott Craven and Jamie Nack (G3892) that provides information on how to get started birding. It includes guidelines for selecting binoculars and spotting scopes, an overview of bird identification guides, and tips on good times and places for birding, as well as information on other related activities.
More than 400 species of bird have been recorded in Wisconsin with about 15% of them being year-round residents. Spring and fall migration periods and at dawn and dusk are the best time to bird watch in a variety of habitats. State wildlife areas, refuges, parks and nature preserves are all great places to go birding.
Bird watching does not require much equipment, but human vision is poor compared to most animals. When trying to get a really good look at birds, especially at great distances, quality optics will give you a strong advantage. Additionally, bird identification guides are useful to help you properly identify and learn about each species. As your bird identification skills increase, you may also want to become adept at identifying birds by sound. Local bookstores, birding stores and libraries may have song identification CDs to help you learn to confirm and become familiar with birds’ vocalizations.
The Dane County Extension Office also has a publication on Bird Feeding- Tips for beginners & veterans (G3176). Bird feeding enables one to enjoy birds close to home where you can conveniently observe, identify, and photograph them. Bird feeding is generally beneficial to birds if you are willing to make a commitment to maintain a dependable food supply throughout the winter and to keep the health and safety of the birds in mind. This publication assists one in making feeder selections, its placement, food choices by preferences of common bird species, tips on buying birdseed, information on coping with squirrels, and providing adequate sanitation of your feeding and watering areas so that you don’t facilitate the spread of disease among birds.
For more information or to obtain a copy of either of these publications go to the UW Learning Store at https://learningstore.extension.wisc.edu where you can view them, order them, or print them on-line.