NC is home to hundreds of year-round and migrating bird species, each with their own characteristics, habits, and songs. The sheer number of birds in our area, plus the start of the springtime breeding season + songbird migration, means that you may recently have been woken up by birds singing at the crack of dawn (a phenomenon known as the Dawn Chorus). And, you’ve likely seen more of them too — at your feeders, on your fence posts, or swooping overhead.
Since so many birds are active right now, you may be wondering what they all are — and you don’t need a lot of expensive gear to figure it out. The most important things are your own two eyes… and a little curiosity.
Here’s what you need to get started with birdwatching, plus a few of the bird species you might see + hear this season (or year-round).
There’s an app for that
Websites + apps have made birdwatching more accessible than ever. Here are a few we recommend.
- Merlin: This free identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology includes photos, an identification + browsing tool, and a database of songs + calls for every bird you’re likely to come across in your area.
- ebird.org: Also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ebird is the best website for birders to find birds, keep track of bird lists, explore the latest sightings + contribute to science. The best part of ebird is the hotspots locator. Raleigh has many local spots where birders have seen more than 200 species.
- Carolina Bird Club: All of the bird species recorded in NC, including information on habitat, breeding, and abundance levels.
- North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: Resources for birders include trail maps, birdwatching checklists, and a guide to how to build your own birdhouses + feeders.
- Audubon North Carolina: State-specific information on species, conservation, resources + tips for birdwatching, bird-friendly gardening + more.
B(u)y the book
Armed with a good field guide, a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are a few of our favorite books:
- The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley
- Peterson Field Guide to Birds by Roger Tory Peterson
- The Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by Kenn Kaufman
- Birds of the Carolinas by Stan Tekiela
You could spend some hard coin on binoculars — and you should spend what you can afford — but there’s no reason to spend $1,000+ on optics unless you get seriously into the hobby. Bins are important, though, so you should invest in something that will give you the best experience. This hobby is all about visuals + listening. It’s hard to see the birds if you can’t see the birds, right? Here are some good binoculars + scopes:
- Roxant Authentic Blackbird HD ($79)
- Nikon 7237 Action ($122)
- Celestron Nature DX 8×42 ($132)
- Bushnell Legend Ultra HD ($173)
Feed the Birds
The easiest way to view birds is to bring them to you. Retailers like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Wal-mart + Lowes and all have good selections of bird feeders in different shapes and sizes. No backyard? You can get a simple window feeder for your apartment. This link has some ideas on the best types of bird feeders to purchase + what kind of food (seed, suet or nectar) to offer.
Protip: The folks at Wild Birds Unlimited (4412-110 Falls of Neuse Rd. Raleigh + 2040 Kildaire Farm Rd., Cary) can hook you up with a great bird feeder + locally-sourced seed and suet (a birdseed cake). They’re also extremely knowledgeable about all things birds.
Here are 17 of the birds you may be seeing (or hearing) in your backyard now
Great Blue Heron
Photo by Andy Reago + Chrissy McLarren
📍Eastern + Central US + Central America / the Caribbean | 📅 Migrates to Central America for winter | Song
Protip: You’ll likely hear the beautiful song of the wood thrush in summertime forests, but you may never glimpse it.