Winter Birdwatching – National Bird Day

Did you know winter is one of the best times to go birdwatching? We’re serious! There are plenty of species that stay put in their areas year round, plus loads of varieties that you can catch during their migration. With bare branches, you can also see deeper into the woods than you might otherwise.

It’s only natural that each January 5th, we grab our binoculars and bird books to observe these beautiful animals in honor of National Bird Day. National Bird Day was established by the Avian Welfare Coalition to raise awareness about eliminating the bird trade and improving the welfare of birds kept in captivity. To get involved, you can support organizations such as the Avian Welfare Coalition by donating or simply spreading the word. Then you can celebrate birds in the natural habitat in the very best way – birdwatching.

How to Go Birdwatching in the Winter

Why go birdwatching you may ask? It’s actually quite a lot of fun! Identifying birds is an awesome learning experience for children and adults alike. You’ll get to know the environment and your own backyard a little better. And they are so pretty too! Whether you’re a casual watcher or an experienced birder, we have the tools and tips for winter bird watching to get you going.

Clothing and Gear

Birdwatching does require some patience. When you’re out in the wild, it’s not guaranteed that you will see the bird you’re searching for. That means you may be outdoors for a while. So when thinking what to wear while bird watching in the winter, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Choose muted colors, as the trees and bushes are bare. Camouflage or khaki may be best to blend into your surroundings.
  • Wear layers – starting with a moisture-wicking base layer. Also, choose clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Jackets or pants with deep pockets are best to carry supplies and snacks.
  • Bring lightweight binoculars to get a better view of the birds.
  • Lastly, be sure to have a field guide to identify the birds you see.

The Best Birds to See in the Winter

Each region offers a unique winter birding experience, but you can spot many beautiful birds right in your own backyard. A tip for frequent visits from these feathered friends? Keep your feeders stocked! Many birds will stick around if they know they are going to be well fed. See how many of these popular winter birds you can cross off your list this year!

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal Mates Facing Each Other
Female (left), male (right)

This bright red beauty is stunning anytime of year but is especially striking against a blanket of snow. 

American Robin

American Robin in a snowy berry bush

Robins can be seen even in cold climates year round as long as the snow isn’t too deep, and they have food to eat. 

Blue Jay

A blue jay perched on ice covered branches following a winter storm

Another bold colored bird, Blue Jays are easy to identify against the drab colors of winter.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco (junco hyemalis) on a snow-covered branch

These little cuties love cold weather, so it’s a good bet you’ll find the Dark-eyed Junco while birding in the winter.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

A Red-breasted Nuthatch is perched on a dead branch looking over its shoulder.

The Red-Breasted Nuthatch is most commonly found in Canada year round but does travel into the United States for the winter. 

White-Breasted Nuthatch   

A white breasted nuthatch perched on a branch.

Another popular winter bird is the White-Breasted Nuthatch. This one, unlike its red-breasted relative, actually enjoys spending most of its time upside down!

Black-Capped Chickadee  

Black-Capped Chickadee

There are many kinds of Chickadees, so to determine if what you’re seeing is a Black-Capped Chickadee, reference this guide.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse In Winter

This bird hangs out in the same crowd as the previous four birds on our list, so if you see any of those birds, keep your eyes open for the Tufted Titmouse.

Snow Bunting

Snow bunting bird in winter

States neighboring Canada are likely to find the Snow Bunting, a bird which can often be seen tunneling and ‘bathing’ in the snow!

Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

Like many on this list, the Downy Woodpecker tends to stay put year round, but definitely appreciates a stocked feeder and will even sleep in a birdhouse on very cold nights. 

Where to Travel to see Birds in the Winter

As mentioned above, you don’t have to travel farther than your own backyard to see a variety of gorgeous birds. But if you’re looking for a fun adventure, it really depends on what bird you’re looking to see. If you have never ventured up North to see a Dark-Eyed Junco, maybe now is the time. Or plan an RV trip to the southern tip of Texas to see a Green Jay for yourself!

Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) on perch Starr, Texas, USA.

Birdwatching Etiquette

When birding, it’s important to adhere to proper etiquette, even if you’re just in your backyard. Never disturb the birds, try to capture them, or scare them. Always stay on public land unless you have permission from the owner. Stay quiet and patient, and you are bound to be rewarded!

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