Birding is fun, relaxing, and fulfilling, whatever time of day you decide to break out your binoculars, however, some times of day are better than others. So, what is the best time of day for birdwatching? This can depend on the species of bird you’re hoping to view and the season, in addition to other factors. Knowing the right time of day to view birds based on these factors can ensure you see more species of birds, easily, without waiting restlessly in the brush for hours on end. Knowing the right time for birding will be dependent on the bird’s behaviors, the weather, season, and each particular bird’s eating habits, habitat, and the general environment.

For most species, the best time of day for birdwatching will be at sunrise, mid-afternoon, and at sunset. During these times birds are foraging for food and water, utilizing the ray’s of the sun for mite control and some relaxing downtime, and preparing for the long night ahead. You can easily spot even the rarest species of birds in your neck of the woods by birding at these times of day, regardless of season and habitat.

Keep on reading to learn more about bird behaviors, how to track their routines, and the perfect time of day you can get a glimpse of your favorite species.

Bird Behavior

In order to pinpoint the perfect time to view a specific species of bird, you have to learn their schedule. This may sound silly, but just like people, a bird has certain times of day that they’re more active, such as their feeding time.

A bird’s daily pattern can include activities such as hunting, eating, and roosting. Learning about a bird’s behaviors and their routines can help you to narrow down the time when you’ll get the best view of your favorite species.

Feeding Time

parrot eating

A bird will spend a large majority of their time foraging. This will include not only finding food for themselves but locating food for their young and/or their mate. Sunrise is one of the most active feeding times. The sun warms up insects, which makes it much easier for a bird to find this food source quickly. For other species of birds, late evening is the most active time for feeding as the birds need to eat again in order to store energy for the night.

Singing

Birds that are vocal are obviously easier to spot. During the early spring and summer months, a bird is working to attract a mate and establish a territory. In order to do so, they must sing a lot in the morning, since there is less background noise, which will allow the sound to carry further. If you go into a field in the early hours of the morning, remain perfectly still, and rely on your hearing, you’re sure to find rarer species that you wouldn’t normally even hear because of traffic and other environmental noises that often drown out these songbirds.

Warming Up in the Sun’s Rays

A bird that enjoys sunning themselves in the warmth of the sun can easily be found in mid-afternoon when the sun is high. Locating a sunning bird is a common birdwatching tactic, regardless of season, since a bird will use the sun for both mite control and for temperature regulation.

The Thirst is Real

Most birds will locate a source of water and stick around the source, visiting it several times a day. A bird is more likely to visit their water source during the hotter times of the day. Feeding times are also popular times for drinking and you’ll often find birds visiting both your birdfeeders and birdbath at the same time of day.

The Right Time of Year

Understanding these basics of bird behavior is a great way to learn how to catch rarer birds that you don’t see often and will give you more opportunities to observe different types of bird behavior.

While you can see birds any time of year, there are certain times of the year that offer a wider range of species.

The fall and spring migration times are often the most rewarding. During the migration, many species gather together in large groups, which makes them easier to see. A birdwatcher can also see odd bird behaviors from birds that have become disoriented during their long flight. Depending on the route and the species of bird, birds can pause between their wintering and breeding ranges in places that can make it very accessible to birdwatchers that are normally very far outside the typical range of a specific species.

Study up on migration schedules for different species of birds, and be sure to visit local birding forums for some great tips on how, when, and where you can witness this type of fascinating behavior.

Mating Season

birds mating

Birds tend to become more reclusive during the breeding season. However, the breeding birds are also much more active and have brighter plumage, both of which help the bird to attract mates and claim territories. This will make it much easier for the birder to spot and identify birds. While a birdwatcher must take extra care to never disturb a nest, locating a rookery or nest that can be monitored from a safe distance can make it well worth your efforts during the mating season.

Irruptions

Many species of birds migrate during the colder months of the year and won’t be around during the winter. This type of behavior can actually work in the birdwatcher’s favor. Northern species of birds will fly south in strong irruptions that will make them highly visible to birders. This type of behavior will provide a unique opportunity for the birdwatcher to see some species that are normally out of reach.

Related Questions

What Type of Binoculars are the Best for Birding In Bright Light Conditions?

I recommend the Canon Image Stabilization All-Weather Binoculars. These birding binoculars work well in a variety of light conditions, are very beginner friendly, and feature an ergonomic, lightweight design that promotes user comfort. To learn more about leading birding binoculars, click here to read our birdwatching binoculars buyer’s guide.

How Can I Keep Track of the Birds I Spot and Identify when Birding?

This is a common question many beginners have. The best way to keep track of the species of birds you have seen, the time of day you’ve spotted them, and other important information is by keeping a journal that lists this information. This is a great way to keep track of a bird’s behavior and their most active times throughout the day. To learn more, click here to read the article on how to make birdwatching journal.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the answer to what is the best time of day for bird watching will depend on many factors, such as the season, species of bird, and their behaviors and routine. But for many species of birds, viewing them at sunrise and sunset are often the best times, since birds tend to be more active, foraging for food and water, and using the sun’s rays to stay warm.

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What is the Best time of Day for Birdwatching?
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What is the Best time of Day for Birdwatching?
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Learn about the best times of day you can catch a glimpse of your favorite species, how to track birds based on behavior, and the common birding hot spots.
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