The Bird Watcher Quiz


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Anik Messier/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Slowly, quietly, barely breathing, you creep through the underbrush, your heart pounding, sweat dribbling across your brow. Your wide-brimmed hat can’t stop all of the summer sun’s rays, and it can’t contain your excitement, either. Because to your astonishment, through your powerful binoculars, you are beholding the glory of the rare California Clapper Rail, of which only a few hundred remain in all of North America. You are a hardcore birder – but can you pass this feathery birding quiz?

In the United States, birders are anything but a rare breed. Millions of people claim birding as a hobby, and some of these people take this high-flying pursuit to extreme lengths. Avid birders travel all over the world in hopes of adding to their lifetime logbooks. Others, of course, find happiness in simply watching common birds on their balconies, in cities and in the countryside. Do you really know the basics of birding techniques? And how much do you know about famous birds and popular bird species?

Everyone knows what a common house sparrow looks like. But do you know a green heron from a gray? And are you a grackle fan or do you prefer bluebirds? And how exactly can you bring these birds to your home?

Pull on your boots and grab your binoculars. It’s time for the ultimate birding quiz!

Which of the following places might be the best for birding?

Birds, like all animals, are drawn to water. Whether you're in a city or the wilderness, ponds, lakes and other water sources attract different species of birds.


Which of the following do you need to get started with birding?

You don't need much to get started with birding. The necessities include a pair of binoculars, a field guide and a weather-proof notebook so you can log your sightings.


What's one of the best ways to spot birds in their environment?

Birding requires concentration. Stop what you are doing and just … stop. Be still and observe the environement. After a few minutes, you'll begin to notice how various creatures, including birds, are moving through the landscape.


How much do you have to spend to obtain quality binoculars for birding?

You don't have to blow your bank account for binoculars. You can find decent optics for around $100, and if you shop carefully, used binoculars can offer even more value for your money.


What's one of the first places you should look for birds in their environment?

In thick summertime brush, birds are often nearly impossible to spot. But by keeping an eye on exposed perches and thinking about how birds utilize the local space, you'll have a better chance of spotting one.


When you arrive at a new location, how should you begin your birding session?

Don't immediately grab your binoculars. Scan the area with your naked eyes first. If you see something interesting, use your optics to get a better view.


What is one of the most useful tools for birding?

Experienced birders know that their ears are incredibly useful tools. Not only can they alert you to the presence of animals, but with time you'll be able to pick out specific bird species without so much as a glance.


About how many species of birds are there in North America?

North America is a vast place with incredibly diverse environments. It is home to about 800 different bird species.


How should you begin to identify a specific bird?

Start by broadly grouping the bird. For example, owls look quite different from pelicans. If you can determine which family the bird belongs to, you can begin to analyze the animals other features.


Which little bird tends to scuttle upside down when it is moving about on a tree?

Nuthatches are daring and vertigo-free birds. Unlike sparrows or robins, they'll hop along upside down on tree limbs in search of snacks.


What's one of the easiest ways to bring birds to you in your own yard?

Birds are hungry little creatures that crave accessible meals. Setting up a bird feeder or two is an easy way to draw these creatures for easy viewing.


If you're struggling to identify a bird, what's one way to differentiate it from species with a similar physical appearance?

When birds are flying, they could be headed just about anywhere. But those that stop to eat are in a more familiar habitat … and habitat is often a big clue as to which species you're observing.


What's a "lister"?

For some outdoorsy types, bird watching becomes a borderline obsession. "Listers" or "tickers" are avid bird watchers, the folks who religiously document each bird they identify.


What's one primary way to identify a particular bird species?

Birds often frequent certain areas only in one or two seasons of the year. Use your field book to determine which species might be present at a given season.


How helpful is size alone in pinpointing a bird species?

Observing size is just one small part of bird identification. That's especially true when there's just one bird present, as it may not be representative of a particular species.


Simple birding books often organize species using which variable?

Many of the most basic bird ID books organize birds by color. This system allows novice birders to quickly flip through color-coded pages that make it easy to pinpoint many types of winged creatures.


Binoculars are indispensable for birders. If you use 10x50 binoculars, to what does the first number refer?

Binoculars are very valuable tools for wildlife viewing. In a 10x50 pair, the first number refers to the magnifcation, and the second number indicates the size of the lens at the end of the binocular.


What sort of feed can you use to draw hummingbirds to your location?

You can make your own sugar water concoction using online recipes. Add to a hummingbird feeder, and presto, if you live in a hummingbird area, you'll see these creatures sucking on their favorite beverage right by your home.


What's one reason novice birders should pay attention to common birds?

Novice birders typically benefit from carefully watching for common species. That way, when an atypical bird moves through the area, you'll be more likely to spot it right away.


Many expert birders prefer to observe birds at what time of the day?

The earlier, the better. Many bird species are most active at dawn, and their songs are easier to hear before sun-driven breezes begin blowing.


What's a "life list"?

A life list is the documentation that shows which birds you've spotted throughout your lifetime. In North America, only the most devoted birders will break 700 -- and most fall far short of that number.


What's one major reason you should log your bird sightings?

Bird populations move and morph over time, in part due to seasonal changes. Your log book will help you understand bird movements as species come and go.


What should you do if you find baby birds unattended in a nest?

It's not uncommon to stumble upon unattended baby birds. Leave them alone -- in most cases, the parents are nearby, anxiously waiting for you to depart the area.


What's one amazing thing about brown thrashers?

Brown thrashers have amazing mimicry skills. Not only can they copy other bird calls, but they can repeat the calls multiple times, confusing both birds and humans.


What was the original purpose of the American Birding Association?

Founded in the late Sixties, the American Birding Association was meant to locate and log rare bird species. The modern-day organization, however, is meant to serve all avid birders, no matter their interests.


What's one downside to using cracked corn in your bird feeder?

Cracked corn is a nutritious treat for many song birds … and just about every other creature, too. Squirrels, bears, raccoons, house sparrows and countless other animals will flock to your feeders if you offer this treat.


In birding terms, what's a "big year"?

Extreme-minded birders love the challenge of a "big year." During this year, a birder will attempt to spot and log as many species as possible, perhaps traveling all over the world to do so.


John Weigel is the current Australian "big year" record holder. How many birds did he identify in one year?

Weigel went all over the place in Australia in 2016 to set the regional big year record. In just a single year, he identified 836 species, by constantly traveling and using a very tight itinerary to locate as many species as possible.


Birdwatching is a massive industry. About how many Americans list birdwatching as a hobby?

In a time when ecotourism is booming, so too is birdwatching. Of around 330 million citizens, about 60 million Americans are avid birdwatchers.


Thistle seed is particularly effective for drawing which kind of birds to feeders?

Finches adore thistle seed. They also love nyger seed. Both food sources are high in energy and provide a tasty snack for various finches.


Trichomonas gallinae is a parasite that birders can help prevent with which tactic?

Wet bird seed -- in certain conditions -- can help to proliferate the Trichomonas gallinae parasite. If you feed backyard birds, keep your seed dry, and if it's become wet on the feeder for long periods of time, consider replacing it.


What's one interesting behavior of the catbird?

Catbirds are mimics that can copy other bird calls. However, compared to other mimics, their impersonations are quite rough.


What sort of birds will you draw if you offer milo as food?

Milo and sorghum are particularly popular with various species of ground-feeding birds. You may see types of thrashers, quail and cowbirds, among others.


Which of following things may make your backyard bird bath more appealing to songbirds?

Wildlife is generally drawn more toward moving water than stagnant pools. You can buy a variety of water wigglers (including solar-powered version) that make the water more appealing. These can deter mosquitoes to some degree, too.


The late Jon Hornbuckle is often noted as having spotted and identified more birds than anyone else on Earth. How many species did he identify?

Top birders are known to thoroughly document their sightings. Jon Turnbuckle, who lived in England, identified more than 9,600 birds in his lifetime. He died in early 2018.


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