Tired of Netflix? Birds provide a show right outside your quarantine window

American robin
An American robin. (Courtesy Dan Rauch)

Ever heard of a black-throated blue or an American redstart?

Well, while you’re working from home in the D.C. area, you might look out your window and see one of those interesting birds, along with about 238 others, according to Dan Rauch, a fisheries and wildlife biologist for the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment.

“Right now is kind of prime time,” for bird watchers, he said.

That’s because early-to-mid-May is a transition period when the birds that have come to the area for the winter are still here and the birds that left for the winter are coming back. Add in the resident birds and you have over 200 species at once.

But, how can you figure out which feathered friend might be patronizing your bird feeder or scanning your backyard for worms?

Rauch said one of the best resources is an app called Merlin, created by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, designed to be “a birding coach for beginning and intermediate bird watchers.”

That way, you can figure out if that bird you’re looking at is indeed a great crested flycatcher.

“They’re these beautiful birds that are showing up,” Rauch said.

Rauch said not only are people buying birdseed and bird feeders, but downloads of apps like Merlin are up more than 80% because people are home and want to know more about the show going on right outside.

“They can see the activity going on and it’s kind of great, if you see a bird go by, to be able to identify what it is, it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “They’re sitting right outside your window.”

If you can put up a bird feeder, Rauch said, you will get more than just a passing glimpse.

“They’ll stick around for a little bit and you can get a good idea of the beautiful colors that are on some of these birds. You can really enjoy them and identify them,” he said.

And beyond using your eyes, you can use your ears to enjoy the birds, especially early in the morning.

“Just keep your ears open, they’re very vocal,” Rauch said.

Even deep in the District, you might find a bird like a common gallinule, which is more at home in a marshy area perched on the window ledge of a third-floor apartment.

“Since it’s migration,” Rauch said, “you could have the whole gamut of birds coming through.”

You might even see a white pelican flying up the Potomac River, he said. “You never know what you’re going to see.”

Rauch recommends binoculars, online bird guides, such as Merlin and the D.C. Audubon Society’s website, to get started in a stay-at-home-inspired bird-watching hobby.


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WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this story.

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