Photographing wild birds is a challenging endeavor. It provides even more obstacles than other animal photography: The birds can not only fly away as soon as you set the perfect shot, but they are often hidden by branches, twigs and foliage or silhouetted against a bright sky. But the challenge is part of the fun, and when you get a magical shot of the 400 you took, it's all worth it.
The tips here are not for professional animal photographers who use equipment that easily costs north of $ 10,000. They are for the bird that goes for walks and tries to see and document as many new species as they can. You're in good hands, because I've made all the mistakes. I hope I can save you from being the victim of the many pitfalls I have encountered.
As important as any of the tips below is to know that successful bird photography requires patience and dedication. You often go birdwatching and have nothing to show. On other days you will come home and find that you have pictures of new bird species that you did not even realize you saw when you were out there! For us who are not direct identifiers, photos are a great help when compiling your excursion list (and submitting it to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's wonderful eBird site.)
If you have your own tips for better avian digital photography, feel free to send them in the comments below.