Being a birdwatcher isn’t actually about having all the gear and knowing all the birds. Birdwatching really is just…watching birds!

Having special equipment and knowing birds really well is wonderful and can take the experience to another level. But the simple act of watching and admiring birds makes you a birdwatcher too.

One of the wonderful things about watching birds is that it brings you into the present moment. If a bird appears, now is the time to observe it because in a moment, it could be gone.

Birding is such an engaging way to bring new excitement to your adventures in nature. It’s also a wonderful way to learn more about where they live in and the way they behave in their neighbourhood.

If you’re keen to give birdwatching a go think ‘watching birds’ as your starting point. Try the tips below to make it easier and fun.

Let’s go birding

If you’re keen to get birding, try spotting, observing and identifying five different species on your next adventure. Then you can slowly step it up over time.

You can help look after birds by always making sure your birdwatching is ethical.

Here are some tried-and-tested tips for finding birds, and what to do when you’ve spotted one!

Caption: If a bird pops by on your daily comings and goings, stop and watch it. Take time to admire it 📷 Euan Moore
Caption: Listen – Sometimes birdwatching is really more about bird listening! If you hear a bird calling, see if you can spot it. 📷 Euan Moore
Caption: If you notice bird-like movement, e.g. a shadow overhead or fluttering in the trees, see if you can find it 📷 Euan Moore
Caption: You can look for birds anywhere from your backyard to forests and the coast. Your best bet is looking where their food and water is. Areas such as wetlands and open waterways are good places to start 📷 Euan Moore
Caption: When actively trying to spot birds keep still and quiet 📷 Euan Moore
Caption: Don’t be afraid of binoculars. While you don’t have to use binoculars to watch birds it will open up a new world. You will be able to get a better view of birds in the distance. If you are having trouble, be patient. Do a little research on using them correctly and keep practicing. For tips on using binoculars, check out the section below 📷 Euan Moore

Once we’ve got the hang of spotting birds, we can start to pay attention to their features. This will help us identify them. Features to pay attention to include:

Caption: Eastern Whipbird 📷Meghan Lindsay


Location – where in the world, what type of habitat and whereabouts in the habitat. E.g. the bird might be in the Dandenong Ranges, in a forest, on the ground.

Shape – body, beak, legs, wings, in flight.

Size – compare with a nearby known bird or object for relative size.

Colours and patterns.

Sound of their call.

Behaviour – what are they doing? How are they flying/moving? Are they interacting with others e.g. in a noisy flock or solitary and quiet?


Caption: Laughing Kookaburra 📷Meghan Lindsay
Caption: Rufous Whistler 📷Meghan Lindsay

Once we have taken time to notice and admire the features of a bird, we can use this information to identify them. There are many books and apps with details on Australia’s birds. These resources will guide you through identifying your bird. They include information on the geographic area where the bird is known to live as well as the bird’s features. Often birdwatching is more about bird listening. You will sometimes hear a bird but not see it. Some of the resources below will also help you identify birds from their calls.



BirdLife Australia also has a comprehensive online database of Australian birds. You can browse by bird group (e.g. waterbirds) and location to see what kinds of birds you might find while birdwatching in your local area. This database also includes bird calls.

The North American based Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a leading bird research and education organisation. This site includes education resources, research, conservation and citizen science. It has links to research and conservation organisations across the globe including real-time camera feeds.



Caption: Eastern Yellow Robin 📷Meghan Lindsay

Keeping a simple list of the birds you see is a great way to hone your birdwatching and will help you learn about the birds in your area. A basic written list is all that you need. Some national parks or local councils have a list or guide to local birds available online. You can use these as a checklist.

Once you are able to identify birds, you can even start to submit your records to a range of databases like Birdlife Australia or iNaturalist. This information will help scientists and land managers learn more about different birds.

Caption: Superb Lyrebird 📷Meghan Lindsay

You can birdwatch from anywhere! Birds live in our cities, suburbs, the countryside and at sea. They occupy almost every habitat on the planet.

You can find birds in your garden, local street and park. Start by getting to know what’s around in the places you visit regularly.

Here are a few places to explore.

Near Melbourne

  • Jells Park – There are wetlands, native bushland and areas of open grass. Lots of different habitats means lots of types of birds!
  • The many parks and wetlands along the Yarra River.
  • Westgate Park.
  • The Western Treatment Plant. Yep, this sewage treatment facility is internationally recognised bird habitat! Read more about permits for birdwatching access and what bird species you can find there.
  • Williamstown to Altona foreshore, Newport Lakes and Cherry Lake.
  • Dandenong Ranges National Park – not only a great place to find Superb Lyrebirds but also many other types of birds.

Across Victoria

  • Lakes and wetlands are generally great birdwatching places
  • National Parks and conservation reserves are also great places to look for birds. Gariwerd/Grampians National Park, The Gurdies Nature Conservation Reserve, Wilsons Promontory National Park and Wombat Forest are a few of the many amazing parks in Victoria to visit.
  • Coastal areas, particularly tidal estuaries such as Westernport Bay and Swan Bay.

Check out this list of references to learn more about great places to experience birds:

You can also check your birding apps on your phone for suggested birding sites.

eBird has interactive maps and lists that let you to see which birds have been seen recently in your area or in places you plan to visit.

Parts of the binoculars

Strap attachment – Point for attaching neck strap or shoulder harness.

Centre hinge – Allows adjustment for the separation of the barrels.

Objective lens – Gathers light from the subject being viewed.

Eyepiece – These are the lenses that you look through.

Diopter – Adjusts focus between the two barrels to accommodate differences between your eyes.

Focus knob – To focus on your subject

Adjusting your binoculars

  1. Attach the neck strap and adjust the length so that the binoculars sit comfortably against your chest.
  2. Adjust the rings surrounding the eyepieces to suit your eyes.
  3. Adjust the hinge to suit the distance between your eyes.
  4. Select an object with clear sharp outlines, e.g. a dead tree or power pole, and view through your binoculars.
  5. Shut your right eye and focus on your object using the central focus knob.
  6. While still viewing your object and without changing the focus, open your right eye and close your left eye. Now use the diopter adjustment to get clear focus through your right eye.
  7. Open both eyes. You should now have clear stereoscopic view of your subject.

Once you have completed this setup you should only have to adjust the diopter occasionally if it gets out of alignment or if other people are using the binoculars.  Everyone’s eyes are different in how they focus.

How to use your binoculars for birdwatching

Carry your binoculars around your neck so that they are easily accessible. Before you start, adjust the focus to a moderate distance by focusing on something 20-30m away.

When you spot a bird:

  1. Keep the bird in the center of your vision and follow it if it moves – do not look away.
  2. Bring your binoculars up to your eyes.
  3. Focus your binoculars.

If you have kept your subject in center view, when you look through the binoculars you should be looking straight at it. If your binoculars are focused mid-range there is less adjustment needed to focus on your subject.