Backyard Chirper

EARLYBIRD SPRING SALE ends 03/15/24! $10 off your next purchase of $100 or more. Code: EARLY10

Starting Your Own Backyard Bird List

If you’ve been looking to get serious about birding but haven’t had the motivation or time to embark on an intense bird watching trip, consider creating your own backyard bird list.

Now I know what you’re going to ask. “How will I see a variety of birds by just looking in my yard for a few minutes every day?”

The answer is pretty simple. There are several dozen bird species you can spot from your backyard regardless of where you are.

For example, Jeff Reiter reported that he’s already up to 114 different species spotted from the confines of his yard in the western suburb of Chicago.

Reiter, who writes a great column called Words on Birds for the Daily Herald, said that it’s a great way to spot a range of birds without leaving the area of your home.

This is a great idea for the birder whose schedule does not allow much birdwatching outdoors but wants to observe the unique world of birds.

Despite the fact that birds will come into your yard by themselves, Reiter said that a lot of birds are spotted by accident either flying over or in a neighbors yard.

If you’re interested in starting a backyard bird list, here are some things to help you get started.

1. Get a good field guide or app

The first step of doing any bird watching is to get a solid field guide to help you identify them for your list. There are a number of good guides such as The Sibley Guide to Birds or Peterson Field Guide. With all the technological advances, another option is a field guide app for your smartphone. If you’re thinking about getting an app, check out my review and description of the most popular ones.

2. Make your yard hospitable for birds

Birds tend to frequent places that have the things they love: food, water and shelter. Providing them with bird feeders, birdhouses and bird baths will increase your chances of attracting an array of birds. If you want to attract specific types of birds, we also have some articles on how to do so.

3. Create a plan for the backyard list

There are a number of ways you can actually create your list. You can make a blank spreadsheet and add birds as you spot them or have a checklist that you check off. Making a spreadsheet will allow you to make a list each year like Reiter so you can keep track of yearly counts, document habits and try to beat the amount of sightings you saw from previous years.

4. Get outside and start looking

Plan on giving yourself a specific amount of time each day or week to go outside and spot birds. It doesn’t have to be much to start off with but you should vary the time you go outside to increase the likelihood of spotting various species.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.