26 Facts About Birdwatching That Will Give You Something To Crow About (Sorry)

·6 min read

My kid (15) and my husband are both obsessed with birds.

Father and child birding
Dao Nguyen

I have driven and flown them places to look at birds for many years. I have only remained sane by keeping a mental list of weird but fascinating things about this hobby, and I am ready to share them with you!

1.First, please don't say "birdwatching."

Birders go birding, and die a little inside when non-birders call it "birdwatching." I only put "birdwatching" in the title because my editor said people wouldn't understand it otherwise.

Steve Martin says "It's called birding, Rick" in The Big Year
20th Century Fox, "The Big Year"

2.Birders are never defeated by lack of sleep.

3.When an unusual bird is spotted, or a common bird is spotted in an unusual place, the birders come out in DROVES.

4.Like when a Steller's sea eagle, normally seen in Asia, got lost and ended up in Maine in late 2021, more than 2,000 people traveled to Maine and Massachusetts to see her.

Birders watch a Steller's sea eagle in Georgetown, Maine on Friday, December 31, 2021.

They named her Stella. Admittedly, it's a pretty cool looking bird.

Portland Press Herald / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Steller's sea eagle flying over the water.
Agd Beukhof / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5.When American woodcocks showed up in Bryant Park in NYC for a few weeks in spring 2022, swarms of birders showed up, but I get that, because LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE DANCE

Bat McLellan

They named him Timberdoodle. Scientists think American woodcocks dance to detect food under the soil. They aren't super rare in NYC, but so cute.

6.You may think that New York City, a concrete metropolis, is not good for birding, but it is, in fact, a world-class birding destination. Over 200 bird species can be spotted in Central Park alone, as it is a prime rest stop along the Atlantic bird migration route.

7.NYC birders have special names for dozens of different spots in Central Park that only birders know, basically a SECRET CODE for communicating bird locations. Like the Magic Bush.

8.And the Compost Heap.

9.The birding community is super friendly, locating birds for others (e.g. search #birdcp on Twitter for Central Park alerts) and helping to ID them, too.

So fitting that birders use the bird app. Other key apps are Merlin for ID'ing birds and eBird for logging your sightings and seeing others' sightings, both made by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. On eBird, you can compile your life list, or all the different species you've seen in your life, as well as year list, county list, etc. Young birders hang out on Discord.

10.Like any community, there are RULES. For example, do not post locations of owls on Twitter when you see them, lest they be disturbed by swarms of onlookers.

11.But owls are majestic creatures, and birders will not be deterred.

12.Birding became so popular during the pandemic that it is often easier to spot the birds by first spotting the birders.

13.And like any community, there are FACTIONS. Birders are nature-loving, chill people who stand in one spot for 30 minutes at a time, but they can still have passionate disagreements. One is about digital playback, or whether you should play bird calls on your phone to lure them to you.

14.But all in all, birders are a peaceful bunch, just trying to look at and identify birds. Which requires a LOT of knowledge.

15.C'mon, warblers basically all look the same. I mean, at least 20 of them have gray wings and a yellow breast. Plus, they are tiny, sit high up in the trees, and fly around very quickly.

16.No, these are not all the same kind of warbler.

17.Some bird names are extremely unhelpful. Red-bellied woodpeckers clearly have a WHITE belly.

A red-bellied woodpecker

Who would look at this bird and decide to name it red-BELLIED? OK, so the belly has a tiny reddish section, but who could honestly see that in the field? Ring-necked ducks have a ring around their...bill. And, neither Tennessee warblers nor Nashville warblers hang out in Tennessee (except when migrating through).

Zachary Vaughan / Getty Images/500px

18.Seemingly helpful names like "seagull" should never be spoken.

19.Even experienced birders have a hard time identifying gulls.

20.Now, you may be inspired and want to go on a trip with a birder, but be warned: They get up at dawn and prefer total silence when birding.

21.They are singularly obsessed. They bird while watching TV.

22.Birders get annoyed when they hear the "call" of a bald eagle on a show because movie makers use the majestic call of a red-tailed hawk instead. Bald eagles sound like squeaky seagulls.

23.They bird while playing word games.

BRDL word game

24.They bird before they even leave the house.

25.But birders' passion is infectious!

26.So, if you have excellent vision, infinite patience, copious sunscreen, and $150 to spend on a pair of binoculars, go forth and bird!

My kid uses this pair of binoculars for $145 which is light and versatile. My husband prefers this pair of binoculars for $225. Have fun!