Can You Go Birdwatching in the Rain? (Yes, Here’s How!)

You have plans to go bird watching, but it just started to rain! Thoughts are running through your mind, do I have to cancel my plans now? This happened to me just a few weeks ago. Even though we almost cancelled our birding excursion, we followed through and went despite the rain and the results were incredible.

Can you go bird watching in the rain? You absolutely can go birding in the rain! It’s actually a great idea to get out and look for birds when its raining. Many birds behave differently when its raining, so getting out in varying weather conditions can add give you unique birding experiences.

Now that you know its possible to go birding even when its wet out, continue reading to learn how rain changes the bird watching experience.

Are Birds More Active In the Rain?

Most birds aren’t more active when its raining out. Instead they look for opportunities to perch and keep dry until the weather clears up. Smaller birds are less active in the rain, they will still forage and hunt for food but in shorter spurts to occasionally dry off and preen their feathers. During the in between times they will seek shelter in shrubbery, large trees and under building overhands.

Larger predator birds will also lower their activity levels, instead of flying in search of prey they will find a nice light pole on which to perch and wait for an opportunity to present itself.

Some Birds Are More Active In the Rain

On the other end of the spectrum there are other birds that love the rain. They will relish sitting in it or splashing in puddles. For example ducks who already spend large amounts of time near bodies of water can go basically unphased even in extended periods of rain. Occasionally you’ll see them shaking off their feathers, re-oiling them, then continuing on their regular routine, hunting and so forth.

Birds like Herons and Egrets also don’t mind rainy weather. Just a few days ago I went out for a few minutes despite it raining and I was treated to quite a few birds hunting. My local Great Blue Heron was having a field day eating small fish and crabs, a Black Crowned Night Heron was doing the same, and I even got to see add to my lift list and see a a Surf Scoter for the very first time.

Do Birds Like Sitting In the Rain?

Do birds like sitting in the rain? Some species of birds love sitting in rain, for example ducks, gulls, herons, and egrets. However, smaller birds like sparrows, wrens, and finches will seek out shelter in the form of trees, bushes, and even buildings. Larger predatory birds like hawks will sometimes sit in the rain waiting for their prey to pass by. Light rains won’t bother hawks too much but windy rainy days will slow their activity unless they are desperate for a meal.

See Unique Birds

One of the reason going birding in the rain is recommended is the opportunity to see unique birds. As mentioned earlier some birds do not like the rain. Because their wings are designed to fly when dry, many species cannot or will not fly in rainy weather.

What does that mean for birders like you and I? Well, if birds are migrating from point a to point b and it starts raining what do they have to do? You guessed it, they need to land and settle somewhere they might not have until weather conditions permit them to continue on their trek. So then if you live nearby where they happen to settle you get rewarded with a rare sighting.

Dressing for Rainy Bird Watching

Birding in inclement weather can sometimes be harder on bird watchers than the birds themselves. You are going to get wet, really wet depending on how long you’re out. If being in soaking wet clothes isn’t your favorite feeling, you need to be prepared by dressing appropriately and planning your course.

First off you want to wear the right clothes. Don’t go out in jeans and a t-shirt, or any other clothing that will hold on to water and just weigh you down. Instead opt for light weight water resistant clothing. North Face has some great affordable options. The very first time I went bird watching at one of my local spots it was a rainy day, my wife and I stopped by the resident North Face Outlet store and found great rain resistant jackets for about $40 each. The jackets were light weight, cheap, and kept us dry the entire time we were in the field.

Proper footwear, I cannot emphasize enough. If you have the wrong shoes or boots on in the rain, the situation can go from bad to worse extremely quick. Water resistant hiking shoes or boots are a must IF you are going out on a trail that could get muddy. Even on paved surfaces consider water resistant shoes unless you like walking around in wet socks.

Protecting your equipment in the rain is another serious concern

Protecting your equipment in the rain is another serious concern. If you are going out birding with your camera and its raining use good judgement. Don’t ruin an expensive camera, lens, scope, phone, or pair of binoculars that aren’t weather sealed. Even if your gear says its weather sealed double check the specs and see how long it can be exposed to the elements.

Wrapping Up

In review – can you go bird watching in the rain? Yes you can and not only that you should! Bird watching in differing conditions can present unique experiences. Some birds will relish the rain and others will bring their activity levels way down. Think strategically and go to an area where birds who like the rain might be!

Also remember to dress for the occasion, nothing can ruin a day out birding more than being soaking wet and cold the whole time. Thanks for stopping by! Like always feel free to reach out via email or drop us a line in the comments.

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