Birding is the number one recreational activity in the United States, and it’s growing more popular every day. The hobby has seen a growth of 150 percent in the last ten years alone.
Why is it so popular? Dave Titterington, owner of Lincoln’s two Wild Bird Habitat Stores, enjoys birdwatching because it’s entertaining, educational, and it brings nature right to your backyard all year long. Birds are the most visible of our wildlife. Most people will never see a wild fox, but everyone can see wild birds just by looking out their windows.
Kids can learn about math, science and geography through studying birds. And as children learn to appreciate birds, they become more aware of environmental concerns.
“An interesting aspect about getting kids involved in bird feeding and their enjoyment of it is that it starts to generate awareness for not just the plight of birds but the plight of wildlife on the planet,” Dave said.
Spring is a great time to feed birds because birds are busy building their nests and starting their families. They can really benefit from extra food during the spring, especially because their food supply is still somewhat diminished at this time.
“Research shows that when birds have supplemental feed available to them in the spring and early summer that they nest quicker and have more successful nestings,” Dave explained.
A good way to get started is to use an inexpensive tube feeder filled with black oil sunflower seed, an economical seed that attracts a wide variety of birds. You can even build a feeder out of a plastic pop bottle.
“You can buy a 50-cent feeder or a 50-dollar feeder,” Dave said. “The birds don’t really care, as long as it’s got the proper feed in it.”
If you want to venture farther than your backyard, check out the Pioneer’s Park Nature Center, Wilderness Park, even Wyuka Cemetery. Start making a list of the birds you’ve seen, either in a notebook or a computer database. Dave lists knows people whose “life lists” contain more than 900 birds.
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. Field guides, such as Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America are helpful, and some people enjoy using binoculars. Field guides and binoculars are available for check out at Pioneers Park Nature Center for use in the center. If you do choose to buy binoculars, Dave recommends the 8 x 35 size.
“A lot of people think the bigger the binocular, the better you’re going to see,” Dave said, “But a lot of time you’re in close enough range that with a high power binoculars you’re not going to be able to focus in on the birds.”
Nebraska is a great state for birdwatching. The state is ranked number seven for bird species, and Grand Island was rated the number one birding spot in the world by Forbes Magazine. In Nebraska we can see both eastern and western birds, and we are in a major flyway for spring migration.
To catch some of the area’s great bird species, visit the Spring Creek Prairie near Denton, or drive to the state parks along the Missouri River. DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa is a great spot for birding.
If you want to check out the birds to the west of Lincoln, the Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon provides excellent bird viewing as well as nature-related activities. Clay Center puts on an annual birding festival called the Spring Wing Ding . The festival takes place the first weekend of March and includes bus tours to local marshes, educational seminars, a noon cookout and evening banquet. For more information, call 402-762-3776.