One of the main questions beginning birders always ask is when is the best time of day to go bird watching. The simple answer is any time. As you observe more birds, you learn that different species have specific patterns and times they like to come out. If you're interested in observing as many species as possible, you will have to go birding at various hours. Here are the different times of day to go birding, what their advantages are and what species you might observe.
Early Morning Birdwatching
For many non-birders, the first inkling would be that the early morning is the best time to observe birds. Although you also have to go birding at other times to see more species, there is some truth in that statement. Birds are probably the most active and alert in the morning because they are out trying to find food. The phrase 'the early bird catches the worm' is easily transformed into 'the early birder catches the bird.' Depending on where you are, the advantage of going birding early in the morning is that no one else is around to disturb the birds. You will be able to watch their natural behavior.
Late Morning & Early Afternoon Birding
Late morning and afternoon are usually considered the worst times to go birding because many birds are less active after morning feeding. However, this is an ideal time to observe birds of prey who are out on the hunt. Raptors love to come out a few hours after sunup for a few reasons. They utilize the thermals, which are columns of rising air, that only make strong appearances in the late morning. The afternoon sun also provides better light for scanning the ground.
Late Afternoon & Early Evening Birdwatching
If you're not a morning person, but would still love to catch a glimpse of songbirds, they come back out to bird feeders for another meal in late afternoon. Then, as light begins to dwindle in the evening, you start seeing the appearances of owls and other nocturnal species. There are also some species that appear sporadically throughout the day, so it's important to be conscious of their patterns.
While beginning birders might be wary of night birding, there are actually many different species of birds that come out only at night. Aside from the well-known Great Horned Owl, other flying animals like Nightjars, some rails and bats come out. Although bats aren't birds, they are fascinating to observe. If you're interested in night birding, here are some tips to keep in mind.