#1 BIRDING IS POPULAR (ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT!)
With over 53 million birders (This is a super-conservative number, as some organizations have calculated up to a whopping 81 million birders) in the United States alone, bird watching is…. drumroll, please…. the second largest outdoor activity in the nation. Gardening is the first (in case you were wondering).
Those statistics do not even take into account the millions more who bird throughout the world. Can you believe it? In fact, bird watching is not only one of the most popular activities in the world, it is also one of the most rapidly growing hobbies across the globe.
What makes it so popular? Well, there are many reasons! First, birding is popular because it is easy for people of all ages to enjoy; it is an ideal family activity; it can become a lifetime hobby that constantly provides opportunities to learn, improve, and enjoy the outdoors. Mostly, though, it is because birding is fun, engaging and rewarding. There is a reason why all the cool kids are doing it!
Oh, yes, I said it: C.O.O.L. You see, what people envision as the typical birder just doesn’t apply anymore.
So forget your stereotypes. Erase those preconceived notions of your “average” birder. They just don’t mean much these days. You tell me: do these look like the faces of traditional birders to you? I think not!
If you are at all intrigued, please read on… You never know, you might just get the birding bug!
#2 EDUCATION (LET’S CALL IT BIRDOLOGY.)
If you are someone who derives pleasure from discovering new and interesting things, then birding is sure to satiate your desire to learn. On a daily basis, you can experience the thrill of exploring and observing new species. And, with all of the remarkable optical aids, like binoculars, digiscopes and telephoto lenses, that modern-day bird watching has to offer, you can see and study birds like never before!
One day, you can observe the intricacies of bird behavior and courtship; the next, you can discover more about feeding preferences and migration. The things we witness are fascinating!
If you find that you love this aspect of birding, there are so many ways to give back… One way is by contributing to citizen science, through programs like the Christmas Bird Count.
With around 10,000 living species in the world, even the most dedicated and skilled birder cannot become bored; there is always more to learn about our feathered friends!
#3 BIRDING IS SO VERSATILE
Birding goes hand in hand with so many other pastimes. In fact, for me, bird watching is almost always done in concert with another one of my many, many passions.
Gardening – Like many other avid bird watchers, I sometimes put my “olive thumb” (not quite black, but not yet Kelly green… I’m working on it!) to work and garden for birds by planting trees, shrubs and flowers that attract them. I also provide them with food and shelter. It’s fun. It gets me outdoors. And, it’s great for the birds!
Photography – You will rarely find me out in the field without my camera in tow. I love photography. I love birding. Why not enjoy the two simultaneously? Plus, this way I can come home, make sure my identifications are correct (and learn why they aren’t when I am wrong!), and recall my beautiful observations whenever I please, with the click of a mouse.
Travel – The only thing better than travel alone is traveling for birds. I can’t remember the last trip either Michelle or I took, for work or for pleasure, where we didn’t make a pit stop for some birding. Whether we are traveling to sales meetings, birding festivals or conferences, we will find the nearest birding destination and create some time to see if we can add some new species to our life list.
Pets – If you are a pet-lover who just doesn’t quite want to take on the responsibility of a pet (think vet bills, potty training, and fur all over the couch!), then wild birds are a fantastic alternative. When I first started backyard bird feeding, I was amazed at how quickly I became attached to my newfound feather friends. I enjoy watching them visit every single day. Nurturing them, and contributing to their wellbeing, feels great! And they thank me with lovely song all day long.
Hiking – If you are already a hiker, look up every once in a while! You’ll be amazed by all the birds you can find. From rare species to birds of prey, hikers have the chance to view birds that wouldn’t typically visit a backyard feeding station. If you haven’t already, I urge you to take a pair of binoculars (and an open mind!) on your next hike. I can assure you that a whole new world will open up before your eyes. Enjoy the view!
Woodworking – I admit, this one is an interesting addition… but, oh, so true. For anyone who has an interest in creating wood craft projects, there is nothing like watching your creations being used and enjoyed by singing birds. Though I am no handywoman, I have taken my shot at everything: from planters to nest boxes and birdhouses to birdfeeders. They may come out a little cockeyed sometimes, but the birds haven’t complained yet!
#4 BIRDING IS EXERCISE (FEATHERS AND FLAB!)
Now, some birders may scoff at this, but it’s true! Assuming your outings in search of birds aren’t spent entirely confined to a blind (a place where people can watch wild animals or birds without being noticed by them), birding is great exercise for all fitness levels.
I was never keen on hiking. When I’m looking for birds, however, I can go for hours without realizing how far – or long – I’ve walked. Challenging terrain doesn’t even faze me. Did I mention that I am usually carrying a field guide, binoculars (or a scope), and a backpack full of camera equipment? Yup, it all adds up to quite the calorie burning activity. Hey, if a day out birding can also count for some exercise, I’ll take it!
Some argue that backyard birders get their share of exercise as well. Cleaning feeders, lifting hefty bags of seed and gardening for birds must do something to ward off the pounds, right?
#5 BIRDING IS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?” – Edward Hersey Richards
Since birding is primarily observation, it has very little impact on local nature and wildlife. If anything, bird watching can be a gateway to developing more environmentally friendly habits. Simply by opening our eyes to the world around us, we become wiser and more aware of our surroundings.
When I began backyard bird feeding, I instantly became more aware of the chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers that were used on our lawns and in our gardens. When I started planting for birds at home, it became easier to understand how our landscaping affects birds and which plants are more likely to attract our feathered friends. I immediately learned that it isn’t difficult to create a bird-friendly habitat, and that the rewards are well worth it. Just by doing so, we can help keep birds healthy, happy and well-protected.
Many conscientious birders begin practicing sound wildlife conservation habits almost without even recognizing it. It is amazing how birders instinctively channel their inner conservationist once they recognize the immense beauty of the outdoors.
We have only begun to skim the surface… Once you embrace your inner birder, it is almost impossible to escape your newfound passion. Fascinating birds are everywhere – all the time! If you have just gotten the birding bug, and are eager to join in the feathered frenzy, it is safe to assume that you’ll be researching a pair of binoculars before you finish reading our next blog: 5 MORE REASONS TO GET THE BIRDING BUG!