Even though more than 300 species of birds have been documented in the Yukon, you might be surprised by how many you can learn to identify, in a short period of time, with a good pair of binoculars and a bird guide. There’s lots of information online and in phone and tablet apps, as well as in old-fashioned books, to help you learn how to identify birds and find out about their behaviour and habitat. The best place to start is to get hold of a good pair of binoculars and learn how to set them up to suit your eyes. This is important and easy to do. The binoculars will come with instructions, and there are numerous YouTube videos to show you what to do.
Popular books for bird identification are The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley; and The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, by Donald and Lillian Stokes (with photographs). The Sibley guide is also available as an app that includes calls and songs. The Merlin app will help you identify the bird you’re looking at by asking you questions or analyzing a photograph you’ve taken and uploaded, although it doesn’t always get it right!
Allaboutbirds.org is a very useful online resource for discovering more about birds, ranging from identification and behaviour, to nesting locations, feeding habits and conservation status. It also includes information on which look similar to the bird you’re trying to identify. Comparing similar-looking birds, side by side, is a very useful way to spot the details that separate one species from another. Each bird page is laid out the same way and becomes easy to navigate after only a few visits.
Heading out on organized, free birding trips, such as the events run by the Yukon Bird Club, is a particularly good way to learn about the birds in your area, as you’ll be joined by people who are passionate about birding and knowledgeable about the territory’s birds.
On top of all these ideas, you can simply begin with a short list of some of the most-common migratory birds that are found in the Yukon in the summer and make some notes about how to identify each species and the best place to look for them. Then head out to find them. Here’s a list of 10 to get you started, chosen because they can be found throughout most of the Yukon and are relatively conspicuous: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Green-winged Teal, White-crowned Sparrow, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Northern Flicker, Say’s Phoebe, and Violet-green Swallow.