what is the best time for bird watching

As an experienced birder, I field a lot of questions about birding. Recently, Nancy, a relatively new birder, eagerly asked, “When is the best time to go birding?” My knee-jerk response was, “Any time is a good time for birding.” That’s true. Birds are always around. You don’t need a special time.

However, later when I gave her question a little more thought, I realized that there really are certain times that are better than others. Not better in the sense that you will enjoy it more—you should always enjoy birding—but better in the total number of species that might be seen. These better times can be grouped into four general categories: (1) The time or season of the year, (2) The weather conditions, (3) The time of day, and, yes, even (4) The day of the week.

Time or Season of Year

what is the best time for bird watching

If you’re from a region of the country where winters are extremely cold, you are aware of the effect that time of year or season has on birdwatching. Simply put, a Christmas Bird Count in December won’t yield as many species as a Big Day in May on a beautiful spring day. Simply put, fewer species are present in the midwinter than there are in the spring. However, since the trees have lost their leaves, it is simpler to get a clear picture of any birds you do spot.

Migration has a significant impact on birdwatching, both positively and negatively. Many species migrate to warmer regions in the fall before winter arrives. A few more northernly species may move down replacing them. However, the overall number of species is simply insufficient to compare with the number of species present during the spring migration.

In spring, you get a triple dose of birds. The year-round resident birds are still there. The typical summer birds will be coming back from their vacation in warm weather. Additionally, some species will be traveling through on their way back north after breeding farther north of your local area. For instance, four years in a row on May 5, a black and white warbler appeared in my yard. After remaining for two days, it would head north to its breeding range. It would be the next year before I saw another one. Spring is my only chance all year. It brings a bonanza of birds.

what is the best time for bird watching

Neither birds nor people like weather extremes. During the warmest and coldest seasons of the year, birds remain dormant. They don’t do much else because they are only concerned with obtaining food and water. Most birders are not active on such days. It is foolish to expect great birding. This also holds true in extremely bad weather conditions, such as torrential rain, hurricane-force winds, sleet, and ice. Birds simply want to be as protected from the weather as possible on days like that. So do birders. It can be interesting before or after a storm, but not when it’s bad outside.

Because they lack watches, birds are unable to tell what time it is. Yet, they live their lives by the solar clock. When the sun rises and sets, they get up and go to bed. The term “dawn chorus” refers to the brief period just before sunrise when birds are at their most vocal and active, particularly in the spring. Therefore, regrettably, you need to rise early in order to see the most birds. To make up for the energy they lose at night, birds eat early. After, eating they rest a little.

Mid-day sun and afternoon heat are generally considered the doldrums. Birds are quiet. Some people advise focusing on butterflies during that time of day rather than birds. That’s when butterflies are most active.

Birds search for their last meal before going to bed at dusk. Before going to bed for the night, they want to eat again.

When their bird feeders are in use, birdwatchers frequently observe that birds appear to follow a routine, showing up at the same time each day. As an illustration, the northern cardinal typically visits the feeders first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Typically, sunrise is the best time to look for birds. Why? Songbirds only have a few hours in the winter to locate food. The sun sets at 4:00 PM, and the birds finish their meal for the day. Birds have to bunker down for the next fourteen hours in an attempt to survive the long, cold night. There won’t be any pizza dude deliveries or delectable midnight snacks. They just have to try and hang on until morning. Then, as dawn breaks, they are up and about, seeking food and basking in the first warmth of the day. However, by late morning, the majority of them will have completed their breakfast and retired to the thickets to finish and digest their meal. Thus, dawn is a good time to look for songbirds if you want to see them in the winter. BTW: It doesn’t get any better in the spring either. The sun and birds rise even earlier in the spring. (Too many early mornings probably account for the appearance of birders.) ).

Is early morning truly the greatest time to go bird watching, or is that just a folktale?

So, yes, George, early morning birding can be very rewarding. But there are still lots of other ways to see local birds if getting up with the chickens isn’t your thing. And just like anything else, birding can be quite rewarding at times and peaceful at others. Heck, there are days when I eat more snacks than birds, but I don’t mind at all.

Birders report seeing a variety of interesting birds every day, but I’ve never seen any of them. I constantly hear people say things like, “You should have been here a few minutes earlier,” regardless of where I go or what time I get there. Thus, it would appear that the best time to go birding is early in the morning, unless there are exceptions. Confused? Here’s my take on this topic.

Another group of birds you don’t have to get up early to see are sandpipers. Their primary reliance is on the tides, rather than the sun rising. Sandpipers are less active and usually go somewhere to rest when the tide is high. However, the birds emerge from hiding and begin to feed when the tide recedes and exposes the mudflats and tidal pools. I’ve noticed that when the tide is coming in, shorebird viewing is usually better. As the water level rises, the flocks condense and the birds move closer to the shore to facilitate observation. Naturally, sandpipers have incredibly similar appearances no matter how close they get, so good luck attempting to identify the species you are seeing.


What is the best time of day to go birdwatching?

Morning has broken Most of us learn that the dawn is the best time to see birds, and that is mostly true, as they are probably the most active and alert in the morning because they are looking for food.

What are the best conditions for bird watching?

Calm conditions make it easier to hear bird song and calls. In the migration seasons, Southerly winds in Spring might result in a few interesting overshoots. In the Autumn, strong Westerlies blow those Americans across the Atlantic. Drizzly, South Easterlies can result in big falls of passerines on the East Coast.

Is birding better at high tide or low tide?

The lower you are the less intimidating you are, and the birds will be less likely to view you as a threat. High tide signals roosting time for most shorebirds. With their feeding grounds flooded, the birds settle into tidal marsh areas, beaches, and along rocky shorelines.

What time is best for bird count?

If the weather is fine then doing your survey within an hour or two of sunrise may be worthwhile. The second point is about birds conserving energy. If birds are able to get their fill quickly in the morning then they may decide to spend much of the day loafing, that is finding a safe perch and doing very little.