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An Introduction to Bird Photography

31 July 2010 No Comment

Photography has become very much accessible to common man in these days. Market has flooded with gadgets priced from a hundred dollars to several thousands. Gone are the days, a 10.0 megapixel camera creates envy among its viewers. Even your cell-phone now holds a 5.0mp camera which produces decent large prints. Several hundreds turns into thousands uploads per hour in popular image sharing website like flickr. Photography has grown wider into many branches of specialization such as fashion, events, industrial and of course towards nature and wildlife. Handling models or being a strobist demands sound technical knowledge, industry awareness and creativity. But in wildlife photography – in their natural habitat – we need more than just the technical stuffs.

To comprehend bird photography, you must be aware about bird psychology.

Red-rumped Swallow

Except a few species – birds of prey like eagles and hawks -, most birds are prey, which means they are food for other animals/birds in one form or the other throughout their life cycle. Their survival techniques, therefore, include quickness, camouflaged appearances and hard-to-access shelters. These strategies for survival make bird photography a challenging one compared to other types of wildlife or nature photography. A good understanding on bird behavior and migration patterns would let you succeed in getting close to them. Owning the right equipment and knowing how to use it come next to it. On top of these, count the following three qualities you should have: patience, observation and practice.

There are several international and regional books on ornithology available in the market. Hundreds of articles, forums and discussion groups can be found on the web too. Starting with a reference book on local birds – depends on where you live – will get you a good launch pad. If you are from Kerala, India, the following books are recommended:
• Birds of Kerala – Salim Ali
• Birds of Southern India – Richard Grimmett and Tim Inskipp
• Thekke Indiayile Pakshikal (Malayalam) – PO Nameer
• Birds of Indian Subcontinent – Richard Grimmett , Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp

Start with those near to your house; you will get stunned to see many different species which are left unnoticed all these days. Get close to them, keep observing; assign yourself in studying their behaviors. Urban area birds are used to human presence and will not disappoint you much. You will slowly learn how to approach them, their feeding behaviors, migration, their breeding time, male o female and identify their calls. Each time when you spot a new variety you find yourself searching on web or referring your handbook. You’ll start preferring window side seats or your open balcony for your leisure time – getting close to nature. You eyes will be surfing through the branches on every possible opportunity. You will hear yourself all of the sudden, yelling, “hey listen, that’s a common tailor bird’s call” and everyone surrounds you will give you a look “huh”. Don’t worry, You are on the track.
We will be covering more on these topics on coming articles. Before concluding let me tell you something on certain ethics in bird photography.


Good and Bad, the definition varies by person to person. As long as it doesn’t affect a third-party nobody bothers you. Similar there are certain ethics recommended in this field too. I would say, you choose a way which doesn’t disturb the natural habitat and lifestyle of birds. There are popular articles, recommend creating artificial perches, placing food materials to attract birds. Of course that will reward you with a few awesome pictures in your profile. But I would say, please avoid such direct interference into their lifestyle. Preservation of Birds will only be possible if we preserve their natural habitat. Keep remember this whenever you spot a bird.

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