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While scientific observation for some kinds of research can take years, you can also use scientific observation on a much smaller scale. While I was recovering from a bout with the Epstein Barr virus, I started doing what I call Birditation, as a form of stress reduction. Basically, you throw out some bird seed, find a comfortable spot, and then sit still and quiet to watch the birds.

At first, the birds were reluctant to come close, but after several days they began to get used to me. Over time, they became more used to me being there, and I got better at sitting very still. The combination led to them coming very close, letting me observe all sorts of interesting behavior.

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Observation includes more than just what you see. Listening to their calls, you quickly learn to recognize feeding calls, fussing at other birds for getting too close, and warning calls when the cat comes by. The more you observe the birds, the more you will learn about them. Now I usually know that our cat is coming minutes before he hops up onto the porch.

This is also a great activity for journaling, keeping track of when new species migrate into or out of your area. Soon after taping this video, all of the white crowned sparrows and dark headed juncos you saw in the video left to head north. About the same time, our summer hummingbirds, orioles, and kingbirds began to show up.

Give it a try. Remember that for the first few days, you may not see many birds, but the longer you do it the more you will see.

  • Are some birds more aggressive than others?
  • How do the birds know that the food is there?
  • When one bird flies away, do the others react?
  • Do some birds prefer specific kinds of seed?
  • Does seed on the ground attract different kinds of birds from seeds on a feeder?
  • Notice the different ways that birds search for seeds. Some will scratch the dirt, while others just eat what they see.
  • Watch for some birds that will pick up seeds, fly away to hide them, and then come back for more.
    Jays are especially likely to do this.