How Bird Photography Works

Creating a Backyard Bird Refuge

Part of the appeal of being a bird photographer lies in the opportunity to head out of town on "hunting" expeditions. You see new parts of the state or country and more fully appreciate the natural world we live in. However, staying home and photographing birds also has its benefits. The trick, of course, is getting the birds to come to you.

To attract birds, you just need to understand their basic needs: food, water and shelter. By simply filling your yard with birdfeeders, plants that produce fruit and berries, birdhouses and birdbaths, you're creating a haven for the birds in your area. Fill feeders with seed, regularly pour clean water into birdbaths, and keep the yard free of predators -- especially your pet cat -- and you'll have plenty of wildlife to photograph.

Your backyard birding can provide a place to hone your skills before heading out on weekend expeditions, and you can learn how your camera works, observe how certain birds behave and practice capturing different images. When you're ready for a birding expedition, you want to go where the birds are. According to The Nature Conservancy, these are the top 10 birding hotspots in North America:

  • Aleutian Islands, Alaska
  • Cape May, New Jersey
  • The Everglades, Florida
  • Gulf Coast, Texas to Florida
  • Monterey Bay, California
  • Newburyport, Massachusetts
  • Pawnee Grasslands, Colorado
  • Point Pelee, Ontario
  • The Rio Grande Valley, Texas
  • Southeast Arizona

[source: The Nature Conservancy]

You can also check out the Top 200 American Birding Spots to find the best birding areas in your state. For beginners, though, joining birding organizations and attending outings is a shortcut to learning everything from scratch.

See the links on the following page to learn more about bird photography.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Cameras and Lenses. Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds.
  • Gallagher, Tim. "Developing an Artist's Eye." Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds.
  • Horn, Bill. "Film or Digital: Which is best for you?" Sept. 2006. Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds.
  • Line, Les. "Shooting Like a Pro." Audubon Magazine.
  • Migration of Birds. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. U. S. Dept. of the Treasury, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Morris, Arthur. "The Art of Bird Photography."
  • Principles of Birding Ethics. American Birding Association.
  • Wolfe, Steve. "Birds in Flight." Sept. 2006. Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds.