The best way to start birding is to go with someone who has been birding for a while. If you don't have friends that bird, try finding a local birding club. Many good bookshops have a selection of books, magazines and tapes on bird watching. Birding is also a popular Internet subject. Learn to identify common local species using your field guide. Consider putting a bird feeder and/or bird attracting native plants around your home. Because different birds live in different habitats, try to visit as many different habitat types as you possibly can.
A good bird guide has clear, easy to recognize, color illustrations. The guide includes information about habitats, maps showing range of different birds, if, where and when they migrate and what their song or call sounds like. The better guides show seasonal color changes, similar appearing species, and provide information on how to tell them apart.
The authority on the birds of the Indian subcontinent - Salim Ali, it can be safely said, needs no introduction! The Book of Indian Birds has been on the racks since 1941 and still going strong. The book boasts of interesting avian observations of Salim Ali all across the subcontinent which he knew like the back of his hand. His very own tips on bird watching, so even if you may get intimidated by his aura his lucid language and apt words will calm the nerves of any new ‘birder’. Also, his impeccable and classic style of writing adds to the charm of the book.
For more than 50 years this book has been a close companion of both amateur bird-watching enthusiasts and seasoned ornithologists in India. This twelfth edition is revised, but retains Dr. Salim Ali's original text while describing and illustrating 240 additional species. Color prints are used in place of the black-and-white photographs of earlier editions. The book now illustrates in color, and succinctly describes the habits and habitats of 538 birds of the plains and foothills, and of the wetlands and sea-coast. The sequence of orders and families has been rearranged to facilitate reference to current ornithological literature. The book remains an indispensable field guide for everyone who wishes to enjoy the rich and varied bird life of the country.
The book of Indian birds is suggested for new and intermediate birders alike. However, you will eventually outgrow this book for something a bit more advanced.
The book contains 96 colour plates that illustrate over 1300 species (all species known or expected in the region), including the various different plumage's and distinct subspecies. These are accompanied by distribution maps and brief species accounts, including useful notes on identification, habitat and behavior, altitude range, and notably, transcriptions of vocalizations. The introductory material includes notes on taxonomy and conventions used in the book, a detailed avian topography, and a "Family Introductions" section that discusses the birds on each plate in general terms. The text throughout the book is of a uniformly high quality, and the identification notes are especially helpful for many difficult species.
The plates and text are neatly laid out, but special mention is due to the distribution maps, which are placed on separate pages for want of space. The title of each plate has an arrow, and the corresponding map page is found by turning one page in the indicated direction. The map pages have the plate number (with a reversed arrow), and every map has the species name and number (from the plate) under it. This makes it very easy and fast to consult any given map.
This is a more advanced book and is suggested for intermediate to advanced birders and may seem a bit difficult to navigate through, but is overall a great book.
There are other books which add to the allure of birding and are great companions in the field. The books mentioned above are what we generally use but there are other good guides available and in the end it comes down to a matter of comfort.
Some of the other good field guides are:
Birds of the Indian Subcontinent ~ Carol Inskipp
Birds of Southern India / Southern India ~ Richard Grimmett
A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India ~ Bikram Grewal