How To Set Up Your Home Office for Bird Watching

Bird watching from your home office? Isn’t that just another form of distraction? It doesn’t have to be. Bird watching from your office can help relieve stress, and can be done without interrupting the normal flow of your day. Here’s why you should consider bird watching while you work, and how to set up a bird observatory from your home office.

Why Choose Bird Watching?

If you put in a lot of hours working from home, you probably don’t have much time for any hobbies. Yet you probably have a few tricks up your sleeve to relieve stress and get through the work day: Solitaire anyone? Or perhaps you have a mini Zen rock garden on your desk to rake away the stress.

Bird watching (also called birding) is a stress relieving activity, and shouldn’t be ranked in the list of common distractions you might expect in the home office (caring for young children, answering personal emails, keeping the laundry going). Once you set up your office for bird watching, it becomes a passive form of relaxation while you work. If your job requires you to stare at a computer screen, your eyes need the occasional break from the electrons to something relaxing and natural. You can keep an eye on bird visitors while you make a business call, or while you think through a problem.

Need more convincing reasons?

  • According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1 in 5 Americans enjoy watching birds.¹
  • Birds are present in nearly every ecosystem on earth, even within the urban jungle.
  • Bird watching is less distracting and more relaxing than watching sports (especially if you’re a devoted fan).
  • Unlike your favorite sport, bird watching doesn’t end with a season.
  • Bird watching can be a calming distraction for children ages 2 and up, if they are at home while you work, and happen to wander into your office (and you know they will). Buy them their own bird watching binoculars.
  • A bird watching hobby has residual, positive effects on your landscaping and the earth. Planting more green things to attract birds is great for the environment.

Setting Up Your Office as a Bird Watching Observatory

Attracting Birds

You don’t have to live in a rural area to entertain feathered visitors. You might be surprised at the number of different birds you discover, once you pay attention.

All you really need to enjoy bird watching is a window and something on the other side of the glass to attract birds. The attraction might be a tree or a bush, or even a convenient surface to land. However, unless your office window enjoys a view of a garden or some natural vista, you’ll need to provide something more enticing to enjoy a variety of birds.

Birds will be attracted if you provide any of three things: something to eat, a safe place to nest, and water for drinking or bathing. Of these three options, birds by far prefer a free meal, if you must choose only one.

Bird feeder styles come in designs that attract a wide variety or specific birds. The best feeders invite birds but thwart unwanted creatures from raiding the food supply. You may enjoy watching squirrels and raccoons, but they can empty the feeder overnight. Choose a squirrel-proof bird feeder, or give the squirrels a feeder of their own.

The type of food you put out will determine the type of birds you attract. Some birds prefer only grains or seeds, while others also enjoy fresh fruit and insects. Even the seed eaters have their preferences. For instance, finches love thistle (nyjer) seed, and the chickadee and titmouse love peanut kernels. A quality seed mix will entertain a wide range of birds. Unfortunately, feeding birds costs a little more than “tuppence a bag”, so do a little cost comparison for types of bird seed if you are on a budget.

You might also want to provide enticements for seasonal birds, or those whose migratory paths lead them through your area. For instance, every spring and summer, Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate between Mexico and Canada, covering states just west of the Mississippi to the entire U.S. east coast. A hummingbird migration map will help you decide when to hang hummingbird feeders.² Knowing your state’s native birds, as well as which birds you might attract during different seasons or migratory months, allows you to attract and view birds to the full potential of your home-office-bird-observatory.³

Beyond bird feeders, you can attract birds by planting what birds like: fruit, nut, or seed bearing trees, plants, and shrubs, all of which act as natural sources of food and shelter to birds and a hundred other types of creatures. Place bird houses to attract your favorites in the spring, and thoroughly clean them out in between seasons.

Bird watching Equipment

Want to optimize your bird watching experience from your home office? Once you have the necessary outdoor attractions in place, simply move your desk in front of the window, place your monitor slightly to one side of the window, and let your peripheral vision do the rest. Movement from visiting birds will catch your eye.

Your involvement can be as simple as watching the birds when your work allows you to glance out the window with your naked eye. Or you can go a step or two further. It’s all up to you, and what your lifestyle allows, but a few bird watching tools will enhance your experience.

Bird watching binoculars are not strictly necessary at such close range, depending on your setup. If feeders are placed just outside of your window, you can’t possibly enjoy a better situation to observe birds up close. Binoculars are nice if you have an expansive view of your back yard. You’ll be able to see birds in the background for identification, and observe the detailed markings that you might not notice otherwise. If you can only afford a cheap pair of binoculars (less than $100), wait and save your money. Superior birding binoculars are well worth the expense, even if you have to postpone the purchase for a bit.

Bird watching books are nearly a must if you pass the line from casual observer to bird watching enthusiast. You could use the Internet for bird identification, but many birdwatchers prefer the old fashioned paper-bound pictorial field guide. Bird field guides depict birds either by photos or illustration; choose the type that seems most helpful to you, or keep each type on your desk. When you are beginning to identify birds, it can be less overwhelming with a field guide to birds in your region, such as the Peterson Field Guides, which offer guides for the eastern or western halves of the country.

The natural progression of your new bird watching hobby will lead you to want a bird watching journal. Your journal might be as simple as a diary software program on your computer, one to which you can open at the beginning of the day and easily flip to when you want to make a note of which birds you observed, bird behavior, or anything related to your bird watching hobby. A traditional bird watching journal (any blank book) might be preferable if you wish to pursue bird watching in your free time in other places, or if you want to sketch the birds you see.

However you record your observations, consider taking it a step further by keeping a life list for your city, county, and/or state. By recording what you see every day you are acting as a sort of amateur field scientist.

Indoor Bird Watching Tips

  • When the weather permits, crack the window open, and keep indoor noise subdued so your ear can pick up bird calls. Learning to match which songs belong to which birds is an intriguing facet of birding.
  • Take down removable screens to improve visibility.
  • To use your binoculars, focus on the bird first without the binoculars, then bring the binoculars up to your eyes gradually. When you sight the bird through the binoculars, adjust the lens into focus. Becoming familiar with your binoculars at home will speed up your adaptation to using them in the field.
  • Harm no bird, whether intentionally or as a result of thoughtlessness on your part. Put a bell on collars of outdoor cats. Choose organic lawn and garden treatments that will not harm birds (or your family) and will not deplete their insect food supply.

Enjoy your new hobby, and consider expanding it past the boundaries of your home office observatory: take a bird watching tour, subscribe to a bird watching magazine, or join a bird watching club. But if all you do is watch the birds from your home-office window, your life will be healthier and richer for it.

Sources and Resources

  1. 2006 Report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: library.fws.gov/Pubs/birding_natsurvey06.pdf
  2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migratory Path Map: hummingbirds.net/map.html
  3. Your state’s Department of Conservation website is a great source for native, seasonal, and migratory birds in your area.

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