bird watching

Why watch birds? Where to watch birds? When to watch birds?

Why watch birds?

People watch birds for a number of reasons and mere curiosity is often the first. People continue to watch
birds for the challenge that they provide to the senses and the intellect- spotting, identifying and trying to
understand their behaviour. Watching birds can make a morning walk more interesting, provide a reason
for getting outdoors or even to socialize.
There are less than 10,000 species of birds in the world and nearly 1200 of them are found in India. They
are diverse enough to be interesting, easy to identify and observe and yet not overwhelming in numbers like
perhaps the insects which are equally interesting to observe. About 500 bird species may be found in
southern India and nearly 300 of them have been recorded in the Bangalore region.
Apart from being an enjoyable pastime, the study of birds has also led to advances in more serious fields
such as behaviour, biology, ecology, aeronautics and medicine. Unlike in most other sciences, careful
observation and note-making could make almost anyone contribute to the science of ornithology. Many
major ornithological studies have in fact been the work of amateurs.

Where to watch birds?

There is a common myth that one has to go into thick forests and bird sanctuaries to see birds. The fact is
that birds are distributed in all kinds of habitats. There are of course certain kinds of birds that can be found
only in forests or other specific habitats, but cities and the places around often provide very good places for
watching birds.
A beginner should start looking around in places close to their own homes as this allows one to watch at
leisure and doesn’t need much planning. Watching the common species helps build the basic skills of
observation that would be needed later and it is a good idea to be ready for birds at all times.
Yet another myth is that one has to trek and walk long distances in order to see birds. It is almost always
better to spend time in a small area looking around quietly and carefully. Time spent looking out from a
good window or balcony can be more fruitful than a long trek through a forest.
The presence of birds in a location depends on the kind of food and shelter available there and even when
birds are present, getting to spot them requires a skill that needs to be developed. Active and vocal birds are
detected more easily while silent and inactive birds can be quite difficult to spot.
Parks, well-wooded campuses, water-bodies, fields and open lands are good areas for birdwatching.
Bangalore has several good bird habitats. The Lalbagh botanical garden, the University of Agricultural
Sciences, Indian Institute of Science and Bangalore University campuses have good park like habitats
while the Hebbal, Lalbagh and Hoskote lakes are very good wetland habitats. Most areas in Bangalore lack
undergrowth and scrub. In order to see species that are specific to such habitats one has to move to the
outskirts for instance near the Bannerghatta State Forest. Large water bodies such as Hoskote, Hessarghatta
and Thippagondanahalli are also present on the outskirts. Good undergrowth and canopy covered habitats
can be found in the Nandi Hills and some parts of Bannerghatta.

When to watch birds?

Bird activity varies with time of day and year. Most garden birds become active early at dawn and remain
active in the early half of the forenoon. This is the time when they are easiest to detect, especially by their
calls. There is also a second period of high activity later in the afternoon at around 3 and this is a good time
for visiting small waterbodies, since many garden birds visit water at this time. Many of the larger birds of
prey, storks and the vultures become active only when hot thermals are available for them to soar without
much effort and it is good to be at an elevated vantage point at around 10 AM to see many of these species.
Some groups such as the nightjars, owls and night herons are active only in the darkness before dawn and
after dusk.
The time of year is even more important. In the winter months (October to March) one can find many of the
migrant species from the Himalayas and beyond while the summer months provide opportunities to observe
the breeding activities of the resident birds. The rainy season is usually unsuitable for bird observation, but
spells of clear weather may provide interesting insights into the activities of the birds.