This isn’t just any new year, it’s the beginning of the Year of the Bird. So if ever there were a year to break free from those “normal” resolutions like getting more exercise and waking up earlier, 2018 is it. May we humbly suggest the goal of getting to know the birds that share your home turf? (It could even help with those other two resolutions.) Here are some great ways to get started:
1. Take a walk with Merlin. If going birding for you is like visiting new friends who you really like but can’t quite remember their names, we can help. Our Merlin Bird ID app is free; it identifies more than 650 U.S. and Canada birds, with additional support for birds of Mexico, Central America, and Europe; it comes with photos, range maps, and sounds; and it works on both iOS and Android. Download it and head out for a short, head-clearing walk each morning or evening, and let the chip notes drift down at you like quiet hellos.
2. Keep a daily list—and share it. Now you’re out walking, try keeping a list. The eBird project provides a handy way to keep all your sightings in one place. You can even upload photos and sound recordings to remind you of what you found. The newly updated eBird app lets you keep a list while you’re out, and will even track your walking route to let you know how much ground you covered. And the data you enter will help scientists understand bird populations in cool ways like this.
3. Become a Bird Song Hero. If there’s a bird song that has been bugging you, you’re not alone. Help with bird songs is the number one subject people search for on our website. Fortunately, our Bird Academy has put together a new approach called Bird Song Hero that combines spectrograms, videos, and a game format to help you visualize songs as you learn them. And it’s free.
4. Drink great coffee. Coffee isn’t just an elixir of early morning life, it’s vital habitat for migratory songbirds—including many of the same birds you’ll be looking at this spring and summer. By choosing shade-grown coffee, or better yet Bird-Friendly certified coffee (which combines organic credentials with high-quality shade habitat), you can make a direct contribution to maintaining bird habitat in the tropics. Here’s our magazine story about the importance of shade-grown coffee to people and birds in Colombia; plus a handy guide to understanding coffee labels.
5. Get a good pair of binoculars without breaking the bank. We’re living in a golden age of binoculars: you no longer have to spend thousands of dollars to get special glass and good optical coatings. So follow our guide to choosing binoculars, master terms like field of view and close focus, and then check out our price–quality index to find an affordable pair. Because as long as you’re going to be looking at birds, you might as well get a good view.
6. Pay it forward. As the weather gets nicer and the birds more colorful, invite a friend to go birding with you. Lead a bird watching trip. Join a local or national bird group, such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; the American Bird Conservancy; your local Audubon society; one of the many bird observatories such as Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, Klamath Bird Observatory, Cape May Bird Observatory, or Point Blue Conservation Science; or your country’s BirdLife International group.
Have you taken the Year of the Bird pledge yet? Along with National Geographic, Audubon, BirdLife International, and other partners, we’re asking everyone to pledge to do one thing to help birds each month. Sign the pledge and we’ll send you a new idea each month. How’s that for a resolution?
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