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Birding With Newcomers

How to Treat a New Birder



How would you treat a new birder?


It is always fun to meet a new person who shares your interest in birds. But how can you share your passion with someone who is just getting started birding without overwhelming them? It is important to introduce new people to this enjoyable hobby, but doing so takes care.

Why We Need New Birders

Every new person that joins a birding flock brings something new and vital to this hobby. Along with their newly discovered enthusiasm for all things feathered, new birders are…

  • More eyes to spot birds on a field trip or to help identify each species. This is one of the benefits of birding in a group, and the larger the group, the more birds that may be seen.

  • More individuals to help support bird conservation efforts, either through memberships in conservation organizations or encouraging local bird-friendly practices.

  • More homes where birds will be welcomed with bird-friendly landscaping, clean bird feeders, fresh water and secure shelter for safe nests.

  • More help to support local businesses that encourage birding, from wild bird stores to garden centers and similar retailers.

One birder can quickly become two or three as each person shares their love of birding with others, if each new birder is welcomed to birding.

When You Go Birding With a Newbie

Being a new birder isn't easy, and it is essential that experienced birders take great care to be welcoming and encouraging to help newbie birders learn to find, identify and enjoy birds safely and responsibly. If you encounter that usual species that is a new birder…

  • Be Welcoming: Say hello, smile, introduce yourself and show an interest in the new birder. Ask about their spark bird, what birds they hope to see and if they are into backyard birding as well. They'll feel more at ease when they realize you are just as passionate about birds as they are!

  • Share and Share Alike: New birders won't always have the most recent field guide or the best optics, but if you share your books or spotting scope, they will be impressed with what they can learn and see, and their enthusiasm will grow. Most importantly, always share a good view, moving aside so they can see the bird too.

  • Aim Big: If the new birder is just getting started, point out larger birds to them. Bigger birds – ducks, herons, cranes, raptors, etc. – are easier to see and have more prominent field marks that make them easier for beginners to identify. With that feeling of accomplishment, the newbie will be ready to see even more birds.

  • Teach, Don't Tell: Instead of just telling a newbie what birds they see, teach them the field marks and other clues to look for, such as behavior and habitat, that can help them learn to identify birds themselves. As they gain more success, they'll sharpen their skills and be ready for bigger birding challenges.

  • Enjoy the Common: A European starling or house finch may not be a big deal to most birders, but to a newbie, that sighting may be the first time they've recognized and identified the species. Learn to appreciate the common birds through a new birder's eyes, and your enthusiasm will grow as well, but if you brush off their experience, you may ground a new birder before they take flight.

  • Practice Ethics: Lead by example by practicing good birding ethics and etiquette when you're out with a new birder. If they accidentally make a faux pas, be gentle in correcting them and explaining why their actions or behavior might harm the birds. Even share a story of your past mistakes to let them know it's okay, everyone has to learn.

  • Be Patient: A new birder might make a lot of simple flubs without realizing it – talking a bit too loud, focusing on a rock that looks like a bird, identifying the same species over and over – but they will learn. Showing frustration or impatience with their inexperience will only make them feel unwelcome and perhaps put them off birding entirely.

  • Invite Them Back: After the bird walk or hike is finished, seek out the new birder and ask if they had a good time. Let them know about an upcoming festival, regular birding club meetings or a website where they can get more information. The more they can discover and the more frequently they can connect with other birders, the more likely they are to continue enjoying this rewarding hobby.

We were all new birders once, and remembering what it was like to not recognize even the simplest birds can help us treat new birders thoughtfully. Encouraging more interest in this hobby can help every bird, and as every new birder spreads their wings, we all benefit.

Photo – Birders © Tim

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