I can hear 'em, but I can't see 'em. Birders, any tips?

I am a frustrated birder. I hear them all around me. I sit there with my binocculars at the ready. I hear a bird. I look in the trees, watching for any sign of movement, trying to spot the little beauty. I sit perfectly still. I move slowly to one side or another, to triangulate the sound, to home in on it. And, damn, I can’t ever see them. I know they’re out there - I can hear them. Are there any tips you can provide? I can never seem to see the little buggers. Particularly at migration time, when they’re all around - I hear tons of them, and can’t ever seem to see any. Any tips?

Knowing birds is a big help. I used to go birding with a friend who was very knowledgeable about birds. He would hear a bird. Based on the call, he would tell me the genus, species, and common name. Then he would describe the bird’s habitat. Based on that he could predict where the bird “should” be located. Nine times out of ten, that would be where the bird would be.

Do you know any “advanced” birders?

Not to sound snarky about it, but the purpose of my post was to seek the information that could be gleaned in the absence of such a resource.

Try ‘pishing’.


No problem, I am actually interested in seeing what other suggestions are made.

Oh, and Mangetout, Nice tits!

TOO much foilage?Just came in from back yards.
Since the first of the year my wife and daugher have thinned out a lot of under growth, pruned trees and in general opened up the area.
Put up large seed feeder, thistle seed feeder, one for sunflower seeds, and two wire cage suet holders.
There are all kinds of birds all over the place. They see birds that I miss.
No need for binoculars as they are within 30 feet of the back door. We are located in a suburban neighborhood.

They are a perky little pair, aren’t they. Thanks for noticing.

It can be very frustrating. Unless you use a recorder and playback to call them in, about all you can do is just look where you think the sound is coming from and wait for movement. Pishing may also work in some circumstances, or imitating the call of a Pygmy-Owl.

I do about 90% of my birding by ear; I actually see only about 10% of the birds I hear, but I usually don’t go looking for them unless it’s a species I am particularly interested in seeing.

Buckshot. Even if you miss, you scare the crap out of them, and you can then identify them in flight. Plus, if you do it often enough, it sorts out the foliage problem too. Then the suckers have nowhere to hide.

Okay, I kid, I kid.

In my experience, standing or sitting still with an elusive bird actually works against you. I’m not suggesting waving your arms about, but I have found that moving slowly under or near a tree will eventually get you a sighting. Even if the birds do move into another tree, you then have something to work with. With good binocs and a point of entry, you have a good chance of a spot.

I was hoping I’d scare up Colibri, although I didn’t know how to do pshing on the bbs. Ok, I guess that’s what I thought…just keep looking. It is frustrating, but your 10% makes me feel a bit better. The thing is that for such birdbrains, they keep oursmarting me. I try to slowly move to triangulate them, and, of course, they just move a little bit to a different part of the brush or tree, and I’m left scratching my bald keppie. Where the hell is that damned bird? Sheesh.

I don’t consider myself an expert birder by any means, but something I have discovered that works is not to look for shapes, but movement instead. I walk very, very slowly, or just stand still, and even the most invisible bird will eventually move in a way that reveals its position. A little practice allows you to filter out movement due to leaves and the wind.

Welcome to the club. :slight_smile:

Forest birding involves a lot of staring at foliage waiting to glimpse movement (when the bird will move to a position so that you can see everything except that one crucial field mark, which will be concealed by a leaf) or moving slowly around until you can see a perched bird sitting on a branch.

There are lots of species I’ve only heard, never seen. Sometimes I can spend a month in an area, hearing a species calling every single day, and never seeing one.