According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, more people than ever before are hungry for information about how to improve their backyard birding identification skills. Since many of us have been spending more time at home and taking walks through nature, interest in birding is booming!
Bird watching is a four-season hobby that fits both an active and passive lifestyle. As a 20+ year resident of Fishers and a member of the Fishers Parks staff, I have been actively involved in learning about the birds that frequent our state and enjoy sharing that knowledge with HSE school district first graders when they visit Ritchey Woods for a Nature First educational field trip.
But you don’t need to take a hike through a nature preserve to see some great birds around Fishers. You can start your journey in your own yard with a few strategic items that encourage birds to stop by your house.
- Plant native trees and bushes to give year-round food for birds. For guidance on what to choose, consult the Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District website and the Indiana Native Plant Society.
- Add a water element to your yard. You don’t need a fancy bird bath or fountain, just fill a shallow pan with water and watch the birds stop by.
- Place a bird feeder close to your house so you can watch the birds during every season.
- Avoid pesticides in your yard that eliminate insects which are a food source for many birds.
While field guides and apps on your phone are helpful in identifying birds, it is important to simply spend time just observing the birds and making a few notes. First, note the size of bird compared to a bird you know well. A robin is a medium sized bird, so that would be a good reference for comparison.
Next, notice the dominant colors of the bird followed by any obvious field marks such as a distinct eyebrow stripe or throat patch. Watch how the bird is behaving. Is it solitary or in a flock? Is it perched in a tree, hopping along the ground, eating at a feeder or soaring and flying? All these observations will be needed when you move on to identifying the bird.
Once you get hooked on backyard birding, I recommend you download the free Merlin Bird ID app (available for iOS and Android) to your phone. Using your observation notes and following the prompts, this app will lead you to a handful of likely birds. It is also helpful to invest in a field guide featuring birds of Indiana.
During the month of September, look for a series of bird identification signs along the wooded path near the playground at Billericay Park. These signs are designed to introduce youngster to birding. They feature photos and a fun fact about 15 birds you are likely to see around Fishers. Included on each sign is a QR code that will lead you to a website where you can hear what each of the birds sound like.
Susan Davis joined the City of Fishers Parks department 3 years ago after volunteering at the Farmers Market for several years. As an event coordinator, she works on programs for the young and young at heart. Current duties include Nature First, an environmental education curriculum for HSE first grade students and Fishers Freebirds for residents 50 & better. Susan and her husband Sam have lived in Fishers for 23 years and have two grown children.