The Benefits of Birding

5 Steps for Better Birding


Below are listed some helpful tips to consider when birding,

  • Go birding with an attitude of gratitude even if you do not see and hear many birds, any new birds or any birds at all. Enjoy the experience regardless, being mindful of the beauty of nature that surrounds you, and be thankful with a grateful heart remembering how privileged we Australians are to have so many beautiful places we can escape to, so many National Parks, Reserves and State Forests available for us to enjoy. Appreciate the whole experience, trees, flowers, wildlife and even fungi. Breathe in the fresh air with its reviving scents such as in damp rainforests, feel the breeze on your face and the warm sun. Take in the way the light filters through the trees, and the colours of sunset light up the tops giving them a golden hue. Each birding experience is like the box of chocolates Forest Gump spoke of, ‘you do not know what you will get’. 
  • Many of Australia’s bird species are territorial and spend their day doing circuits of a given geographic area, foraging and warding off other birds of the same species, by sounding warning calls. Many cycle around near their nesting areas, and are careful not to intrude on a neighboring family of the same species. This is ideal for birders as it means that if you see birds moving around, but moving away, being threatened by your approach, the best thing to do is sit or stand perfectly still and quietly wait and they will come to you. Territorial bird may do many circuits of their zone during a day, so they will not be too far away if you wait, or look nearby. We sometimes just sit in a Nature Reserve on the picnic seats provided, have our morning tea or lunch and it usually is not too long before birds appear out of curiosity or just looking for food. The less threatening you are the better. We once had several birds all come and go from the same post within minutes of each other and got some amazing views. We keep fold up camping chairs in the car at all times for this purpose.
Bar-tailed Godwit foraging on river mudflats at low tide
  • As particular forest and shorebirds are seasonal in their habitats it is useful to determine the best time to explore particular habitat locations, and what birds might be found there, before you leave home. This can be done through searches on the internet for the location you want to visit. National Parks and local councils often have useful information on their sites. This is particularly important for our shorebirds as they are migratory and spend our Winter in Alaska and Siberia, returning to nest here in spring and summer months. Many birders make notes of what birds they found, where they found them and on what particular date or month, then comparing their findings with bird lists shared on bird sites on the internet.
This Yellow-billed Spoonbill photographs best from horizontal light of early morning, giving a better profile shot with no shadows.
  • The best time of day to view most  is when they are most actively feeding in their habitats, birding is generally best early morning and late afternoon. In the Australian bush, especially in late spring and summer months it is best to avoid the middle of the day especially from midday to 3:00 pm as many birds are inactive during the heat of the day or quietly resting, being difficult to find and snakes are usually sunning themselves in forest openings and on tracks. Still sunny mornings with blue sky are best for seeing birds and for photography. Early morning and late afternoon also allows for better bird profile shots as the light shines horizontally into the tree branches giving brighter, less shadowed images.
  • Windy, cloudy and rainy days produce less visible birds.The small birds may be moving about as usual, but you will have trouble seeing them and viewing them, due to diffused light caused by clouds and tree tops swaying, being blown about.  If you use a hand held 100 to 400 mm lens in strong wind it will jar the camera and give imperfect shots, even with lens stabilizers on. Diffused light from the clouds will give a silhouette effect when viewing or photographing birds. It is always best viewing with a sunny cloudless sky and the sun shining from behind you and not behind the subject. For example compare these two photos:

When there is defused light and silhouetting, the best viewing and photography will occur when the bird has a background of vegetation, building or water, where there is no excess background light.

This Wedge-tailed Eagle’s colour and features are best seen here with a tree background and not a cloudy sky.
  • When visiting shore bird habitats on mud flats (tidal rivers) the best period to view waders and shorebirds on river mudflats is at low tide, as this is when the waders are actively scanning the shoreline of beaches and estuaries. They are often found resting at high tide. However, the incoming to high tide can also be best for ocean shorebirds on rock platforms, as the tide pushes them into the shoreline to roost till the next tide change. This is good for those doing bird counts.
  • When seeking out raptors (eagles, falcons, kits, kestrels, hawks etc) the mid morning to late afternoon is often a better time to view  raptors, as this is the time when they can soar best on the warm jet stream of the thermals without having to flap their wings. They can stay for hours soaring and gliding as they hunt for food. Raptors usually avoid cities and large towns and are usually territorial so they are easy to locate once you know where they have been previously seen soaring or where their nest exists.
Adult with juvenile Magpie
  • Young, immature and juvenile birds may not have the same coloured plumage as the adult bird. Many immature passerines (bush and forest perching birds)  go through several stages of plumage development, from newborn chick to immature fledgling, juvenile and finally adult. In some species such as Satin Bowerbird, and many others full adulthood for the male can take up to seven years to complete, but only take three years for females. In many species  the male and female birds may all look female and be indistinguishable till they approach mature age.  This can make positive identification of specie and sex very difficult at times, even for the keenest birder. The bird field guide you use will need to highlight the various stages of development where possible. Many immature birds are coloured brown or brown and white, many being speckled or striped black on white as new born chicks. The plumage is more puffed out and fluffy in all birds. Birders have a generic term for brown birds, because so many exist and they are difficult to identify. They call them LBJs (Little Brown Jobs). The key to identifying a bird which does not show characteristic colouring for identification, is to look at the body, head and beak shape of the bird, and get an impression as to kind of bird it resembles. Next take note of what other mature birds were sighted in the area where you saw this bird, that are around similar size, shape and beak structure. Lastly confirm this by checking bird field guides and internet records, by doing searches for immature or juvenile photos of the bird you think it might be. Failing all this, submit a photo and a note as to where you found it and what it was doing at the time to Facebook’s Bird IDentification Australia or to a bird club member for identification. I have lists of bird club links in my Helpful Birding Links featured below.
  • When visiting an unfamiliar area it is wise to make contact with the local bird clubs, tourist information centres and conservation organisations in the area you want to explore before you launch out. These are places of local knowledge which can not be found in books and brochures. Locals know where local birds can be found, and birders love to help other birders who share their passion.  Most bird clubs have websites (some of which are listed below in my Helpful Birding Links). We have found an email or phone call to the local Tourist Information centre in the town we are visiting to be most helpful, as they often have brochures for birders, many of which can be downloaded free online. 
Canon 100-400 mm L series lens on a Canon SLR EOS 70D with shoulder sling
Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera with 100-400 mm lens
  • The most suitable camera for recording bird sightings is a modern Digital  Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera or the Mirrorless EOS camera this gives you the ability to capture the image immediately. The new Full Frame Mirrorless versions, where the image is collected directly onto the image sensor, have even faster speeds of capture and are a lighter camera, having a slightly smaller body and less moving parts. Cropped Frame cameras such as the 70D (above) are excellent if you want a more economical camera, with slightly reduced quality. I used the 70D for the photos in my published books. It is more the quality of the lens that really matters for great images and captures. Many of the pocket digital cameras have a 2 to 3 second delay before taking the photo and by then the bird may have flown and the opportunity lost. The size and quality of the image is also poorer.  Setting your DSLR on Sport mode where you can get a burst of shots will give you the best option for catching the bird in flight. Many of the SLRs now have High Definition movie capability and are able to stay focused on the moving subject. The most popular lens for birders, which can be carried or tripod mounted is Canon L series 100 – 400 mm (pictured above), most serious birders carry the same or better. If you go to 500 mm lenses and greater a tripod mount is necessary to prevent camera shake. The disadvantage with the above lenses is they are heavy metal and glass structures and you have to hold it very still when fully extended to 400 mm, though they do have image stabilizing ability, but it is limited. Tamron and Sigma make a much lighter and cheaper 100-400 mm lens of reasonable quality. I have used both these lenses, though the fine adjustment of the manual mode focus is a little stiff for my liking. Other camera brands are also good. I have found the shoulder strap or sling the best way to carry the heavy Canon lens, freeing up my hands, as the familiar neck strap is unsuitable. Most of the time I shoot in Manual mode so as to focus on the bird and not the surrounding vegetation which Auto mode tends to do, often placing the bird out of focus because of the reduced depth of field with the telescopic lens when extended. Also the images tend to be darker since the length of the lens impedes the amount of light entering the camera. The advantage is that most good digital photo software allows the image to be lightened post processing, and even cropped since the picture size is quite large, without harming the original.
  •  Avoid causing stress to birds, particularly nesting birds by viewing them from a distance with binoculars  or telescopes. Avoid making eye contact with timid birds, as many species find this threatening, since prolonged eye contact is used by birds, animals and some human cultures (e.g. Maori) to ward off a potential threat. Some long necked birds, such as Herons and Egrets extend their necks upright to give the impression they are taller and when they do this back off because they feel threatened. Be considerate to the needs of our avian friends and consider their well being also.
  • Avoid hand feeding birds and using bird call apps to lure them. Australia’s native birds should never be encouraged to feed from human hands, especially young birds that are still learning how to live. Birds must be encouraged to feed themselves from the trusted food sources they thrive on as many of the foods offered birds can be detrimental to bird health. It is fine to offer water for them to drink or wash in (e.g. birdbaths) and to observe them doing this. The use of bird call apps is not advisable unless you have an intelligent understanding of the species and nature of the call you are using to attract a particular bird. Some calls may actually threaten territorial birds and drive them away, causing stress. Other calls may attract a bird searching for a mate and confuse and disappoint it. Birds communicate through their calls like we do when we speak, so it is important again to not stress or confuse birds for our own selfish gain. One of the enjoyable aspects of birding is the challenge of the unexpected sighting. As mentioned in the above point No.2 if you wait long enough the bird you can hear in the distance will usually come to you.
  • For Books that may be helpful to get started identifying Australian birds as well as learn more about the recent research on birds click here.

  1. Michael Morcombe’s eGuide to Australian Birds iphone an invaluable field guide for  identifying birds while out and about. The app stands alone as an amazing tool having both pictures and features of the male, female and immature bird with pictures, recordings of the birds sounds, bird  locations in Australia where you may find them, including the different races of the same bird. The author packs into the app also the ability to limit the search to birds found in a specific state or territory of Australia. This by far was the best purchase I have made in my birding history. Other features include a person sighting register, and search functions. This app can be purchased directly from the Apple Store for under $40. Michael Morcombe’s Field Guide to Australian Birds (Steve Parish Publishing) which is currently out of print has become superseded by following guide.  A glove box edition (compact edition) is still available in some stores. 

  2. The Australian Bird Guide by Peter Menkhorst et al is the latest up to date Australian bird field guide (released May 2017) and includes the most recent name changes to several of our birds having been reclassified in subspecies which are now recognized as endemically Australian. This book has more information though is not as easy to find the bird you want as is Michael Morcombe’s book. This book is available from most book stores and National Parks shops.

  3. Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia is an amazing book for new birdwatchers by Sue Taylor. She has authored several other books which you might find on her website. I was given a copy of this book by friend for my birthday, which he especially purchased knowing my love of birds, and of all the gifts this was the best. My wife and I would read a new location each morning and share Sue’s and Roger (her husbands’) experiences. This book not only gives you a great start into bird watching places, but has lovely pictures, listing the birds found on her several visits to these places, and is written in a very warm and sometimes humorous  manner. We have used it when touring Australia and found it most accurate and helpful. 

  4. Check Out Recent Books on Birds and Birdwatching: On my Books On Birds Page are the covers of several very interesting books on recent research findings and studies on Australian and world wide birds. The two field guides mentioned above are featured there also. The books listed are extremely interesting reading, and will give you a much greater understanding of our birds and how they do life. 

  5. Accomodation in the Capertee Valley – April Mills at ‘Binalong’ 4651 Glen Alice Road, Glen Davis 2846.  Contact: (02) 63797326 or email 

  6. Eramaea Birdlines NSW   is a useful website where birders list locations of recent sightings of various Australian birds. Often rare and difficult to find birds occasionally are listed here for the keen enthusiast to pursue.

  7. Birdlife Australia is an Australian Bird conservation organisation worth joining. They publish a news letter monthly. Click here to find out more.
  8. Below are links quoted from Birdlife Southern NSW Newsletter

Birding Resources in Southern NSW

Here are some wonderful resources for birding opportunities and more:

Canberra Birds: website

Blue Mountains Bird Observers: website

Cumberland Bird Observer’s Club website

Hunter Bird Observers Club website

Birding NSW website

Far South Coast Birdwatchers website

Illawara Birders website

Illawara Bird Observers Club website

BirdLife Southern Highlands website

BirdLife Shoalhaven website

Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists website

I will endeavour to add further links as they become available

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NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed  by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023.



    • Thanks so much for your encouraging comment. I am delighted that my posts enlighten as to bird behaviour as this an area I study and enjoy and many do not touch on. Recent research is quite fascinating on brain function and physiology of birds and how intelligent and socially organised they are. We can learn so much from them, which is what I share in my book “What Birds Teach Us”. Enjoy your week! 🙂


  1. Thanks for the tips. I lug a Sigma 170-500 mm (plus tripod) around, usually extended to 425 mm. I’m thinking a canon prime as my next lens, but that could be years off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks thelocals! My first birding lens was a Sigma 18 – 250mm which I still keep as a spare it is much lighter, being mostly plastic construction, than the Canon . I would suggest you feel the weight of the Canon L series lens before purchase as most find it very heavy due to the solid steel and glass construction, not to mention the many machines within. I am different to most photographers in that I seldom use my monopod and never have a strap, I carry the thing everywhere and it strengthens my wrists. This is how I catch those bird moments which can be easily missed. Usually my wife spots with binoculars and I shoot. As you already know the largest problem is steadying the lens at full extension, even with the stabizers on. In manual mode it can take several shots to get a tiny bird in focus at a long distance. You will be surprised at the distances I get many of my photos, as I have an eye problem also, it has been a painful art practiced over many years. I have checked your pics on your site and they look great, we saw our first Pale-headed last week in Moree. Sue and I both follow each other’s blog and she has also purchased my book. I look forward to us sharing our bird experiences. If you would like to learn more about the Striated Pardalote check this past post of mine:
      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been ‘birding’ for a little more than a year and am enjoying the learning curve. My Sigma has no stabilisation, so I use my tripod as a monopod for morning shots and (if the sun is out) without a pod in the afternoons. That’s for the link for the Pardalote. All the best.

        Liked by 1 person