Birding or birdwatching is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world. Almost daily we read of people that are starting to bird and are looking for advice on how to get started. We have put together this article to help you get started in this exciting journey, we will cover the basics that should be looked at when identifying birds, as well as helping you choose the best resources available on the South African market.
The Six Basics Of Identifying Birds:
1. Size – What size is the bird? Is it bigger than or small than?
A sparrow – 15cms
A dove – 25cms
A guineafowl – 55cms
2. Bill (beak) – Note the size, the shape, and the colour of the bill. Is it a seedeater, an insect eater, a fruit eater, a raptor etc?
3. Legs – Note the colour and length of the legs and feet? What is the structure of the toes?
4. Plumage – Note the colours and markings on the bird. Note the colours at the different parts on the bird.
5. Habits – What was the bird doing?
6. Habitat – Where did you see the bird? Note the distribution of the bird.
When it comes to choosing a bird identification app or field guide, we are spoilt with options in South Africa. If you were to ask the question to a group of birders, you would get a whole range of responses telling you which is best. What you need to remember is that they are normally recommending the app that suits their unique preferences (just like we will in this article). You need to find the app or field guide that suits what YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. You need to note that there are books and apps that are better suited for people of different levels experience as birders. We have used each of the apps and books on this list, and honestly, there are people that would enjoy each of the resources on the list. If you have any further questions, please feel free to drop us an email and we will help and advise you (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What Is The Best Bird App?
We have listed these in the order that we recommend them.
1. BirdPro App – This is a modern app with a whole range of great features. The app doesn’t use drawings, it only features photos. As with all the apps it features quality bird call recordings. The app is growing and improving all the time – and has just added an image recognition tool that promises to be very accurate. Download the app for IOS or Android
2. Roberts Bird Guide 2 – A much loved app in the Southern African birding community – features both drawings and photos. Wide range of quality bird calls. The app also has the most information on the different species. Download the app for IOS or Android
3. Sasol eBirds Southern Africa – One of the newest apps on the market, so the list of birds featured is up to date. The app uses photos and drawings, it also features bird calls. The app doesn’t have a great user interface, but what is great is you are able to play the calls from the opening screen. Download the app for IOS or Android
If you would like to hear more about the Southern Africa Bird Apps, we did a podcast series where we covered each app in detail - Which is the Best Bird App to get
What Is The Best Free Bird App?
1. Merlin Bird ID App – A free bird app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the United States. With this app you can load a bird photo you have taken, and the app will identify what you have seen. This is a great feature, but it is not always accurate. The app also uses a few bird names that are not commonly used in South Africa. Download the app for IOS or Android
What Is The Best Apps For Recording Birds You Have Seen:
We have listed these in the order that we recommend them for the South African market
1. Birdlasser App – This is an app to record the birds you see and help you keep your bird life list. The app is widely used in the Southern African birding community, and allows you to participate in atlassing and challenges. Download the app for IOS or Android
2. eBird App – A bird recording app developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is probably the widest used bird listing app internationally – the app offers a lot for the user, which a great information linked to your account. Download the app for IOS or Android
To read why you should using Birdlasser - Six Reasons that every birder should be using Birdlasser To learn about Birdlasser and to see how to use it - What is Birdlasser?
The Best Bird Field Guides:
We have listed these in the order that we recommend them.
1. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (5th Edition) – The newest field guide on the market, with good information and plates. The guide is suitable for both newer and more experienced birders. The guide features a handy barcode with each bird that allows you to access the calls at no extra cost. Buy your Sasol Field Guide
2. Roberts Bird Guide (Second Edition) – The most popular guide amongst more experienced birders – lots of ‘meaty information’ about the birds, along with well painted plates. Buy your Roberts Field Guide
3. Newman's Birds of Southern Africa – A good book for newer birders, but a bit outdated and newer birders may find themselves outgrowing the guide eventually. Buy your Newman's Field Guide
To read a full review of the Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (5th Edition) - Read the Review To read a full review of the Roberts Bird Guide (Second Edition) - Read the Review To read a full review of the Newman's Birds of Southern Africa - Read the Review
Specialist Bird Books:
Faansie’s Bird Book – This is sold as a kids bird book, but it’s a great book for anyone that is starting their birding journey. The book is colourful and fun – this is essential for any birder’s bookshelf! Buy Faansie's Bird Book
Chamberlain’s LBJ’s – This Faansie Peacock book is a great tool to help work out how to identify those tricky brown birds. Buy Chamberlain's LBJ's
Chamberlain’s Waders – Another fantastic Faansie Peacock book to help you identify waders – which many birders struggle with! Buy Chamberlain’s Waders
We hope that this email has been helpful, please drop us a message if we can assist you in any way.