Birdwatching After 50: A Hobby You’ll Love That’s for the Birds!

50 Plus Hub Research Team


Want to shake up your leisure routine? Stare at more than just screens in retirement? Well, it’s time to spread your wings! Birdwatching is calling your name as the perfect new hobby pastime for adults over 50.

Now hold up. Before you fly off thinking birding is boring, let me share why it rocks for older folks (besides getting to play paparazzi and snap pics of feathered celebs!).

Birdwatching gets you moving on scenic nature walks. It stimulates your mind learning bird facts and behaviors. You’ll tune into nature’s rhythms and discover amazing avian abilities. And you thought grumpy geese were the only birds around! There’s a whole world of fabulous fowl waiting to be spotted.

This beginner’s guide shares tips on gear, perfect places to flock, resources to call on, and everything to get your inner bird nerd soaring. Soon you’ll graduate from newbie “birder” to expert birdwatcher ready for your own show on the Discovery Channel. Let’s take wing!

Get Decked Out with Gear

Every great birdwatcher sports atrusty pair of binoculars. Stopping to stare at birds through grandpa’s old opera glasses just won’t cut it! Treat yourself to these essentials:

Binoculars – The Birdwatcher’s Best Accessory

Scan reviews to find an affordable pair made for birding with an 8x or 10x magnification. Test some out in person and choose a pair that feels comfortable with a wide field of view. Pro tip: hang them on a strap around your neck, not looped over your elbow like a tourist!

Field Guides – Your New Bird BFFs

National Geographic and Sibley make top guides for beginners. Learn your local birds’ colors, shapes, sounds, behaviors, and habitats. No Wi-Fi required – guides work offline anywhere with their handy indexes. Toss one in your day pack or cargo shorts pocket (very birdwatcher chic).

Birding App – Your Feathered Assistant

Apps like Merlin Bird ID or eBird pack advanced birding tools in your pocket. Snap a pic of that mystery bird and let Merlin’s wizardry identify it instantly. Record and share sightings, learn new sounds, and explore hotspots with eBird’s gazetteer.

Now you’ve got all the gear to officially birder! No need to take out a loan for fancy cameras and lenses…yet. Start spotting!

Scout Superior Birdwatching Locations

Be strategic in your search for birds. Here are fruitful places to spot feathered friends near home:

Your Backyard

Squirrels hogging the feeders again? Attract more birds by offering seeds, suet, and fresh water. Plant native blooms they love. Observe who visits your oasis while you sip coffee in your slippers.

Local Parks and Trails

Follow scenic nature trails, scanning treetops and watersides. Rivers, lakes, meadows, and forests offer prime habitat. And parks mean you can carpool with other birders to save gas money for exotic birding vacays (see Belize 2024!).

Quacky Roadside Ditches

Cruise rural roads where birds feed on insects and seeds in protected roadside grasses. Pull over safely when avian action catches your eye. Some great sightings lurk along banal byways.

Wildlife Refuges

These protected habitats offer food and shelter for diverse birds. Watch wading birds stab fish from blinds, scan endless horizons for raptors, and tick off your life list!

Now toss those binocs around your neck and head out to spot feathered marvels near you.

Master the Art of Birdwatching

As a novice birder, all those little brown jobs start to look alike. Have no fear! Use these tips and tricks to identify species:

BYOS = Bring Your Own Snickers (and Guide Book)

Pack snacks, water, sunscreen…and your trusty field guide! Fumbling to ID birds through memory alone leads to frustration. Let guide photos jog your memory on field marks.

Gauge Relative Size

Is that bird smaller or bigger than its robin buddy? Knowing size narrows options. Track proportions as a clue.

Note Field Marks

Spot any distinct patches, stripes, bars, or colors on heads, wings, chests, and bellies. Unique markings help distinguish lookalikes.

Learn Bird Songs and Calls

Sound ID is crucial! Recognizing frequent bird noises helps pinpoint invisible singers. Mnemonics like “Drink your teeeeea” remind you of the Eastern Towhee.

Watch Behavior

Does it wade, swim, hop, swoop, or strut? Behavior reveals species too. Backyard bird moves will become as familiar as your annoying neighbor Gary’s.

Soon you’ll impress even veteran birders with your Sherlock Holmesian deduction skills. Birds, prepare to be spotted!

Geek Out on Awesome Birding Resources

Don’t flock alone! Maximize the fun by geeking out with fellow bird nerds:

Local Birding Clubs

Join outings to hotspots, lectures by experts, and our monthly Pishing Championships (I hold the record at 28 species attracted!). Find mentors and make friends who don’t mind your dad jokes.

Birdwatching Classes

Up your ID skills in specialized courses like Birding by Ear and Raptor Identification through local nature orgs and Audubon.

Facebook Groups

Get your daily fix of bird photos, news, and fun chats in groups like “Beginning Birding” and “Birdwatching is My Superpower.”

eBird Community

Use the eBird app to log sightings, explore hotspots, post pics, and discuss birding adventures with a worldwide community of nerds like you.

Immerse yourself in the global birdwatching community. Before long, you’ll be the mentor giving someone else tips!

Plan a Birdwatching Pilgrimage

Once you’ve honed skills locally, plan a birding trip further afield. Here are prime spots to spot rare species:

Migration Hotspots

Catch migrating flocks at concentrated flyway spots like High Island, Texas, Cape May, New Jersey, and Veracruz, Mexico. Time your visit for peak action!

Birding Trails

Follow mapped routes highlighting birdy attractions. Try Wisconsin’s Great River Road along the Mississippi Flyway or the Pacific Flyway’s Cascade Loop in Washington.

Conservation Hotspots

Nature preserves safeguard essential habitat for endangered species you won’t see elsewhere. Think Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Preserve and Sage Grouse leks out west.

###uckoo for Leks Speaking of leks, don’t miss the spring mating dances of grouse, Ptarmigan, prairie-chickens, and other quirky birds strutting their stuff!

Birding Festivals

Join guided trips, classes, and parties with thousands of fellow bird geeks at events like the Midwest Birding Symposium or Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

Now grab those binocs and take flight! The birding world awaits.

I hope this guide helps you spread your wings as a birdwatcher. You’ll be flocking with fellow bird nerds and building your life list in no time! Soon you’ll be looking up new birds instead of just looking stuff up on your phone.

The birds are calling, so toss those Snickers and head out with your field guide. Adventure takes flight!


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