How to Do a Bird Sit

A bird sit routine can be an anchor in your life, especially during turbulent times. The practice is like an outdoor meditation, with a focus on birds.

Article contributed by Molly Tsongas, Audubon California, and Dan Gardoqui, Founder of Lead with Nature

Article contributed by Molly Tsongas, Audubon California, and Dan Gardoqui, Founder of Lead with Nature

Enjoy watching birds from home? Did you know that birdwatching is a gateway to a powerful mindfulness practice? It’s called a “bird sit.”

A bird sit is like an outdoor meditation with a focus on birds.

Bird sits provide similar benefits to mindfulness practices, including relaxation and quiet mind. They also cultivate a deeper bond with the birds around us and reveal the birds’ secret languages.

Follow these 5 simple steps:

1) Find a Spot: Choose a spot where you can sit quietly and observe birds for 10-20 minutes. This can be your window, doorstep, backyard, or local park. Convenience is key.

2) Have a Seat: Find a comfortable sitting position. Feel free to bring along whatever you need to be comfortable such as a chair, cushion, blanket, snack, or hot drink. When we sit down, the birds to come closer to us than they would if we were walking.

3) Wake Up Your Senses: Take 5 deep breaths to settle your nervous system. Then, take a moment to activate your senses, focusing on what you are feeling, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. Take a moment to listen for the quietest sound in all directions. Imagine expanding your senses from your body outward, to explore the world around you.

4) Tune in to the Birds: Now, tune into any birds you might hear or see. Don’t worry about identifying them. Instead, lead with curiosity and ask questions like: "What are the birds doing right now? Do they have a nest nearby? What have they eaten today?” Watch their behavior and listen for their vocalizations. Try to notice when the birds seem relaxed, alarmed, aggressive, or joyful. Gently check in with the feelings that arise in your own body while you are sitting.

5) Repeat: The best benefits come from repetition. Each day, look for the same birds you may have seen the day before. Getting to know a few feathered neighbors well is much more important than listing all the birds you’re seeing or hearing. You may begin to discover which birds sing first at sunrise, which birds are mated pairs, where the nearest nest is located, and when the hawks are hunting.

Over time, you’ll discover what the birds are saying to each other and how their behaviors are driven by predation, feeding, mating, and nesting in the landscape. You’ll begin to understand how your behaviors affects nearby birds as well.

What secrets will the birds reveal to you the longer you practice?

May your bird sits provide you with fascinating observations, engaging questions and lasting connections to your local birds.


Megafires in California are shattering records.

by Andrea Jones, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon California and Joanna Wu, Avian Ecologist at National Audubon Society

Smoky days are degrading our air quality and the respiratory health of millions of people. Our hearts go out to those who have been displaced, lost a home, or loved one.

Many of you have asked how this impacts birds. Wildfires are posing a new stressor to birds who are already threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and pollution.

Various species are on the move to escape the flames and migrate. However, many wild food sources and rest areas are scorched, leaving birds highly vulnerable.

What can we do to help birds?

During this crisis, we recommend taking two simple steps to help local and migrating birds stay clean and nourished: providing water and food.

By providing extra care during this crisis, you can help birds stay resilient. Your popular watering hole and eatery may give you a glimpse of birds that you've never seen before!

Tips for Bird Baths and Feeders

WATER: Provide water in a bird bath or shallow tray (2 inches) for drinking and bathing. Add a few rocks for easy perching! With a lot of bird traffic to your bath during fires, it’s important to change out the water daily to prevent the spread of disease and to flush out any ash that has collected.

FOOD: Keep your bird feeders or trays stocked with bird seed. A variety of seeds will attract the greatest variety of birds. Black-oil sunflower seed appeals to the greatest number of birds. When using blends, choose mixtures containing sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn—the three most popular types of birdseed. Mixtures of peanuts, nuts, and dried fruit are attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, and titmice.

To avoid crowding and to attract the greatest variety of species, you can also provide table-like feeders for ground-feeding birds, tube feeders for shrub and treetop feeders, and suet feeders well off the ground for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Locating feeders where there is ample cover will also make it easy for birds to safely access the food.

How will the fires impact birds?

Research shows that bird lungs may be more susceptible to respiratory distress from smoke. They are generally less active during smoke events. We do not know how smoke impacts birds’ ability to migrate or hunt. There could be long-term implications for some bird populations.

Of course, most birds are highly mobile. Even as birds fly out of forests, shrublands, and grasslands that are aflame, that movement is a stressor as they must then compete with resident birds for limited food and water in new habitat areas. With fires burning through millions of acres, habitat refuges may also be limited.

How will the fires impact migration?

Right now, we are in songbird migration season. Millions of birds are coming south through California along the Pacific Flyway, looking for their usual resting spots, particularly along river corridors. When they find these areas burned, they continue on their way in search of reliable habitat, or they fly further south without an important stop to rest and refuel.

Bird migration is a series of stops, each of which are vital to a bird’s survival. If we remove these links in the chain, birds will have difficulty completing their journeys. In New Mexico, biologists are witnessing record numbers of dead migratory songbirds and have speculated that the cause may be related to fires in the West, leaving birds in a weakened condition for migration.

How will the fires impact bird habitat?

Fire is a natural part of almost every California ecosystem and is important to its health. But the intense, frequent fires that California has seen in recent years are not normal, and sometimes not healthy for habitat.

Nesting habitat will be at a premium in the parts of the state that have burned in recent years and this could impact an entire generation of birds in some areas if they are unable to find suitable habitat.

What else can we do to help birds?

As we begin to approach the rainy season, it’s a good time to plan for planting plants in backyards and gardens that are native to California, as these are better adapted to drought and fire. Audubon’s Plants for Birds database can help you find out what plants are appropriate for your area.

Thank you for everything you do to protect birds and our communities from wildfire.