When you first start watching birds, it really helps to have friends who know more about the local birds than you do.
You can find knowledgeable birders quite easily -- just ask! When you are at work or church or a social gathering, mention that you are interested in learning more about birds. Your friends and co-workers will come up with the names of local birders in no time.
Another way to find a birding buddy is to go to the park and gaze at a tree-top through your binocular. (It doesn't matter if there are any birds). You are just waiting for someone to come along and ask "Seen any good birds today?" That person is your new best friend because he or she knows more about birds than you do! Ask them if they will help you. They will always say "Yes". Birders are like that.
Here is another trick: Find a local birding "Hot Spot" and show up bright and early on a Saturday morning. You are bound to run into other birders. If you are not sure where these "Hot Spots" are, look in one of the books shown in the left column -- or see Pete Thayer's Favorite 250 birding spots.
The National Audubon Society has over Almost 500 local Chapters. If you join the National Audubon Society, you automatically become a member of your chapter if there is one in your area. These chapters hold regular meetings and host bird hikes. Programs are often about birds. Chapter meetings are a great place to meet other birders in your home town -- so attend a meeting and introduce yourself!
The National Audubon Society is working to protect birds and other wildlife in your area. Local Chapters throughout the Americas publish newsletters, sponsor field trips and education programs, and do advocacy work at the state level, all on behalf of the environment.
Many Audubon Societies are not affiliated with National Audubon. In some cases, they were created before National Audubon even existed. Examples include Mass Audubon and New Jersey Audubon.
Bird Clubs give you a wonderful opportunity to get together with others who share your passion. Clubs may have monthly meetings and invite guest speakers. They sponsor bird trips, usually led by one of their members. They may even publish a newsletter or have a web site.
The most complete list of bird clubs in the U.S. and Canada can be found at the American Birding Association web site. Become a member and receive Birding magazine and the monthly "Winging It" newsletter.
Check your State Ornithological Society web site. There are links to local bird clubs and e-mail addresses for officers. By joining, you will receive newsletters. These are great for finding out about bird trips.
Join an Internet chat group of birders from your state.
Listen to the Rare Bird Alert for your area. At the end of these tape recordings there are usually notices about future bird hikes. Also call the number on the tape and ask the person that answers if there is a local bird club in your area.
You can also meet birders by going to popular birding locations. Many places hold bird festivals each year. Quite a few have visitor centers with staff that introduce you to the local "birding" community. You are likely to see others with binoculars -- walk up and introduce yourself!
You can meet birders by volunteering for a birding project to help scientists. Ask around at your local bird clubs, parks and nature centers.
Hang out at the bird exhibit of a museum such as the Field Museum in Chicago or the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca New York has interesting bird displays. Farther west, in Jamestown, New York, is the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. They have birding programs and an exhibit area.
Live demonstrations at Bird Observatories such as Point Reyes in California, Whitefish Point in Michigan and Cape May in New Jersey would be good at the right time of year.
Subscribe to one of the North American birding magazines: Bird Watcher's Digest, BirdWatchinging or Birding
For those of you in the UK, try these web sites: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Birds magazine, Birdwatch magazine, Birds of Britain web magazine.
There is even a web site called BirdingPal that will put you in touch with birders in your area.
Remember all the folks that are helping you get started. When you become the "expert", please help the newcomers!