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How to be a bird watcher

Did you know…

Some of our African birds are taller than a lion and larger than a small antelope? An ostrich can run almost as fast as a cheetah at 60 miles an hour, leaving Usain Bolt standing!

How to be a birdwatcher Murchison Falls National Park is renowned for its birding

If you want to be a bird watcher there’s little doubt you will develop the bug on safari. 2500 bird species have been recorded in Africa and surrounding islands alone and with over 10,000 bird species worldwide it’s quite a list! Scientists can spend a lifetime trying to piece together this avian jigsaw, researching their eating habits, where they belong and how far they fly.

Prepare for take off…. all you need to become a ‘twitcher’:

  • A good pair of Binoculars (minimum 7x or 8x magnification (ensure there is a weight distributing strap to protect your neck)
  • field guide local to the area
  • notebook and pencil to record bird sightings
  • suitable camouflage clothing for protection from the sun and rain!
  • snacks to keep you going (you could get carried away and end up staying out a long time!)
  • a burst of enthusiasm and you’re on your way.

Zambezi tip …

Start small. Set out a couple of bird feeders in your garden at home and start observing. It can be difficult to identify some species which look very similar so learn to distinguish their calls, note where they feed and their preferences – what seed do they like, are they in a flock or on their own?

Once you’ve developed these skills and you have had a little practice it’s time to head out into the field! Most frequently you’ll hear bird song but you won’t be able to see a thing!

What to look for…

  • Look out for tree movement and then look through your binoculars
  • note the bird’s size, shape, behaviour, posture and markings then try to identify it in your field guide
  • some birds such as the ground hornbill hardly ever fly, some dive for their food such as the kingfisher, others live in the woods or wetlands and so on
  • the best way to learn is by watching and learning from other experienced bird watchers and experienced birding guides.


Create your life list - every time you see a bird list it down the first time you see it – this is called a lifer!

As you become more of a “chaser” (USA) or a “twicher” (UK), you’ll start making other lists comprising location, date, call and so on. When you return from a safari, you may boast a list of over 100 lifers! You’ll soon know much more about birding and birds than most people you’ll meet in your lifetime.

Stop press…

Don’t forget the Bird Fair 2016 on the 19th-21st August at Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

One of the largest gatherings of wildlife and birding experts in the world including wildlife celebrities – Simon King, Chris Packham and Jonathan Scott to name a few.

We look forward to seeing you there for lots more bird watching tips and safari suggestions.