Like anything, putting in the time will improve your birding skills.
Bird in view or in your field guide?
Watch a bird as long as you can; note the appearance and behavior. What is it doing? What size is it? What shape is it?
What color? What are its prominent marks? Does it have wing bars, an eye line, a long tail? Resist the temptation to check the field guide or your mobile device when you can be observing the bird. The bird will eventually fly away, but the bird’s picture will remain in your reference book or device.
Dress for birding success:
Bright clothing worn when out birding can frighten away the birds. Please avoid bright white clothing. In nature, white is a color that indicates danger to wildlife. Think of a deer lifting its white tail when alarmed. Out in the field, it is better to wear older clothes that have been washed many times. Besides, they’re a lot more comfortable.
Field Guides are organized for a reason:
Why do water birds come first? It isn’t an arbitrary decision. The answer is taxonomy. Most field guides use the same sequence that is used by scientists, which reflects what scientists think is the evolutionary relationship among birds. Please be wary of field guides that choose a different system of organizing the birds such as by color, size or habitat. The scientists’ system will prove easier to use in the long run.
(this comes from the Newburyport Birder’s Newsletter with slight modifications.)