So you want to get into bird watching, do you? Well, there are a few things you have to know first.
Any time you're going out bird watching, carrying your field guide is a must. For the bird enthusiast, a field guide is the only way to differentiate between a Carolina chickadee and a tufted titmouse - especially on a first sighting. Ideally, your field guide will be break birds up into different regions, so you'll be able to quickly determine if a bird you're looking at is what you think it is or if it's something different altogether.
You may think that you'll have to memorize what every bird in your area looks like in order to recognize a bird. You're wrong. What you should be looking for are certain traits: the bird's crest, chest, and tail are good places to start. But these won't always make it clear what bird you're looking at, so you have to look for a little bit more. How does the bird sit on a branch, flap its wings when in flight, interact with other birds? Pay attention to these characteristic and you'll be recognizing birds in no time.
In addition to teaching your eyes to recognize what birds you're looking at, your ears have to be trained as well. As the song descriptions found in field guides are one of the most difficult parts to interpret, you'll have to do some reverse studying. A great way to do this is to find a bird that you recognize with ease - something like a crow that can be found around every corner of your neighborhood. Listen to the crow's call, compare it to what is written in the field guide, and adjust your ears accordingly. The problem is probably not in the field guide's interpretation of the call, but rather how novice birders pronounce the written songs.
On some of your first birding trips, you may be surprised at how many birds you'll come across. You may even find yourself face to beak with an exotic bird that hasn't been found in your area for decades. If you think you've found a prehistoric bird flapping through your backyard, take a deep breath and look at the field guide again. What other birds could you be viewing? If that special bird were in your corner of the world, would it be showing up during this time of year and in this kind of habitat? Most likely the answer is no, and the bird you're looking at is a little more common than you may suspect.