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How can you watch birds?

How can you watch birds?

Every birdwatcher should know he needs to use basic gear such as:
Binoculars, although professional birdwatchers also use ground-based telescopes in order to bring birds into focus, above all on wetland.
• A birding field bag
• A paper or digital edition of a birdwatching guide
• A field notebook where you can write down some important data.

Observación de aves. Serranía de Ronda


Some tricks for better birding

Professional birdwatchers rely on skills which make the observation and recognition of the birds from the surrounding area much easier. Although the learning process can be slow, it is true that there are some key features which are crucial for identifying species whether you are an expert or not.

If after taking those features into account you still cannot decide which bird is in front of you, then you should focus on more peculiar details on the animal’s body, such as the following ones:

Form and Size

Is the bird’s head round and big like in the case of an owl or small like in the case of a turtledove? What is their wingspan?

Colours and marks

It is necessary to know what the structural coloration of birds is like in order to identify their colours, spots or significant marks.

Bill and legs

These are also decisive for recognition of species, above all bills, according to which we can determine what food birds eat.


The feather’s features depend on the season, on the breeding or reproduction time. Nevertheless, the colours and shape of feathers are also important for identifying species.

The following diagram comes from the book ‘Las Aves de la Gran Senda de Málaga. Guía de observación’ [The Birds along the Grat Málaga Path. Birdwatching Guide.] by Antonio-Román Muñoz Gallego.

Diagrama de la anatomía de un ave


Frente Forehead
Brida Lore
Bigotera Whisker
Mentón Chin rump
Garganta Throat
Pecho Breast
Coberteras medianas Lesser coverts
Grandes coberterasGreater coverts
Vientre Belly
Flanco Flanks
Tarso Tarsus
Rectrices o cola Tail
Obispillo Rump
Primarias Primaries
Secundarias Secondaries
Terciarias Tertials
Manta Back
Mejilla Cheek
Nuca Nape
Lista ocular Eyeline
Lista superciliar Eyebrow stripe
Píleo Crown

In spite of the complexity of birds recognition, if you know which species can be found in the area where you are, this should be enough. Moreover, most ornithologists agree that the first impression regarding birds recognition is the right one.


Yearly cycle of changes

Birds can be classified according to their morphology, distribution, a kind of food they eat, or their function in the ecosystem. We will here use the classification according to their migratory habits. In the Province of Málaga, all of this kind of classes can be found: sedentary, migratory, winter and summer birds.

Ciclo de las especies según su migración




Sedentary species are those which live throughout the year at the same place and can be seen at all times.

Migratory species are those which are classified according to their yearly cycle. They can go through:
a. Post-reproductive migration, which takes place after breeding. The birds move from Europe, where they nest, to the south, usually towards Africa, where they spend winter. This kind of migration happens at the end of summer and beginning of autumn.
b. Pre-reproductive migration, when they go from warmer places where they spend winter period to the north, where they nest. The species can be distinguished by how far they go. There are short-distance migrants which travel from the north and spend winter at Mediterranean basin and those which go far away up to the Sahara Desert.

Winter Birds are those species which come from the north and spend summer in the south of the peninsula or in North Africa.

Summer Birds are those which come from the south of Africa and come to this area to breed and look after their young.


Basic rules for birding

When you go birding, beside the enjoyment you can feel, the most important things are the protection and preservation of birds.
If you plan the route according to the species you can see in certain surroundings, your outing will be much more successful.

The gear you must have:
Binoculars or / and telescope, which allow us to observe birds from a distance, and watch their natural behaviour which is not altered by the presence of humans. The binoculars are your eyes.
• A birdwatching guide for clearing up doubts about the species you are watching and for their recognition. The birdwatcher’s bible is his guidebook.

The best moments for birding are when birds move their bill, normally early in the morning and in the evening. Watch them move when you wake up and before your bedtime.

Birdsong helps us find them among trees and plants and recognise them. Carrying a birdsong guide is a good idea. You can download the birdsong guide of the Spanish Birding Association on your mobile phone. Follow your emotions!

Do not forget to bring your field notebook, which you can turn into your own guide by drawing species and writing down how you found them. So take your pencil and notebook and let’s draw!

The paths go through private land and farms. It is, therefore, important that we look after the countryside and keep it unspoilt. Nature is our home, look after it.


How to act?

Try to go unnoticed as much as you can. Be quiet and hide behind trees, plants and bushes in order to make sure you will not be seen by birds while watching them.