How to become a birder:
just open your eyes and look around
By Christine R. Gonzalez
SOME hobbies require a sig-nificant
to acquire the necessary
equipment. Not so with
birding. There could not be a sim-pler
start to a lifelong learning pas-time
than to just start observing
the birds in your area.
“Mom and I were in the back-yard
just this week and saw a
bald eagle fly over the house,”
says ornithologist Jill Peleuses, owner of Wild
Bird & Garden. “It is pretty amazing what you see —
owls, hawks, blue jays mimicking hawks. Really cool birds, right there in the yard.”
North Carolina is home to nearly 500 bird types, the Carolina Bird Club says. In Wilmington, some of the most common
include northern cardinals (the state bird), red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens, blue jays and gold-finches
– not to mention the host of shorebirds that habituate the coastal areas.
There are many aids to help launch a new birding hobby, from books to local tours, bird specialty stores and clubs, and
online educational and tracking websites.
The Cape Fear Audubon Society can help further the interest and education of new bird-watching enthusiasts via its web-site.
The group recorded 42 species in a three-hour watch at Wrightsville Beach on a cold February morning this year.
A handful of websites have “just sighted” pages that alert enthusiasts to species in various and sometimes unusual
“We drove all the way to Hatteras to see a snowy owl one time,” says Peleuses.
Some of the best local birding sites include Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach State Park, Wade Park, Halyburton Park,
Smith Creek, Greenfield Lake, the New Hanover County Arboretum, Airlie Gardens, and some of the older cemeteries such as
Oakdale, Bellevue and Oleander Memorial Gardens.
Cemeteries make the list because birds are attracted to places with old or well-established vegetation. Birders should
coordinate with cemetery owners to get permission for bird viewing.
“I love to birdwatch at Carolina Beach State Park,” Peleuses says. “There’s the marina Sugarloaf Trail, but I usually start at the
picnic area. It can be very mosquito-y, so I suggest long pants and a long shirt, but the viewing is always good there.”
Novice birders don’t have to travel to start bird watching. A nice place to start observing feathery beings is right in your
“Instead of just noticing a Carolina wren, because I see them every day, I started watching them fly around my backyard,”
says local ecologist Valerie Robertson. “The fledglings fly together for days. I watch them fly around shrubs, move to trees,
practice landing, talking to each other. I am learning their behavior.”
Opposite: Great egret on the Cape Fear River. Above: Birders take a closer look during a walk on Wrightsville Beach
with Audubon North Carolina.
WBM FILE PHOTO