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What Is Birding?

Benefits of Being a Birder


In its most basic sense, birding, or bird watching, is the recreational hobby of observing species of wild birds, including their physical characteristics and behavior. In reality, birding is much more than a simple hobby and there are many benefits of birding that can be enjoyed by both novice and experienced birders.

Birding Is Popular

There are more than 50 million birders in the United States and millions more throughout the world, making it one of the most popular and most rapidly growing hobbies in the world. Because birding is easy for all ages to enjoy, it is a popular family activity that can lead to a lifelong hobby. Birding has also been enjoyed by many noteworthy individuals, including former president Jimmy Carter and celebrated James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Birding Is Educational

As birders observe new species, they not only learn about different birds, but they also learn about migration, bird behavior, feed preferences, courtship and bird territories. Dedicated birders who want to attract more birds often study landscaping and geography as well. The practice of photographing birds can lead to a study of photography, while frequent use of field guides makes birders experts in detailed observation and species comparison.

Birding Is Versatile

Birding is a hobby that works well with other pastimes, including:

  • Photography: Many birders photograph the birds they see to help identify them or just to enjoy their observations.

  • Gardening: Avid birders are frequently experienced gardeners who plant trees, shrubs and flowers specifically to provide food and shelter that will attract birds.

  • Travel: Enthusiastic birders will travel to festivals, conferences and superior birding destinations to keep adding new species to their life lists.

  • Woodworking: Anyone who enjoys creating wood craft projects can also enjoy building bird houses, nesting boxes and bird feeders to see their work put to practical and enjoyable use.

  • Hiking: Hikers have opportunities to see fabulous species of birds that do not frequently visit backyards or urban areas, including rare species and birds of prey.

  • Pets: Wild birds are fabulous “pets” that can be nurtured and enjoyed without requiring extensive veterinary care, indoor accommodations or behavioral training.

Birding Is Good Exercise

Birding is great exercise for all fitness levels. Observing many different species of birds may require long hikes and walks over uneven and challenging terrain while carrying a field bag with guides, binoculars, scopes and other equipment. Even backyard birders get fabulous exercise as they heft large bags of seed, clean feeders and keep up landscaping to benefit wild birds.

Birding Is Environmentally Friendly

Conscientious birders practice sound wildlife habitat conservation habits to keep birds healthy, including reducing or eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers on their lawns. By adding plants and other landscaping to attract birds, birders help establish habitats for birds to enjoy. Furthermore, because birding is primarily observation, it has a very low impact on the local environment.

Birding Is Inexpensive

All it takes to get started as a birder is good eyesight, a simple field guide (even from a used book store) and an interest in watching birds. Even birders who opt for a field bag, binoculars and other birding supplies can find suitable options for low budgets.

Birders who choose to feed birds in their backyard also have simple, affordable options. Many birds are happy to feed on the ground, eliminating the need for any feeder at all. Seed can be inexpensive, and many birds will eat scraps as well.

Birding Is Challenging

Some bird species, such as sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks or the different species of gulls, can be very challenging to identify, and many birders feel a rush of adrenaline when they manage to add a new species to their life list. Birding organizations may organize competitions such as spotting the most number of birds in a specific time period or location. These types of challenges urge birders to improve continually improve their hobby, leading to even more enjoyment.

Birding Is Fun

For an enthusiastic birder, nothing is more exciting than spotting a new or rare bird, or learning to distinguish individual birds through their personalities. The fresh air along a birding trail can be invigorating, while the companionship of backyard birds can brighten any dreary day. By nurturing wild birds through conservation efforts and personal birding best practices, birders can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment to be a part of one of the most popular and enjoyable hobbies in the world.

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