AskDefine | Define birder

Dictionary Definition

birder n : a person who identifies and studies birds in their natural habitats [syn: bird watcher]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. a birdwatcher
  2. a person who hunts birds

See also

Extensive Definition

Birdwatching or birding is the observation and study of birds with the naked eye or through a visual enhancement device like binoculars. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are more readily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Most birders and birdwatchers pursue this activity for recreational or social reasons, unlike ornithologists, who are engaged in the formal scientific study of birds.

Birding versus birdwatching

Both in Britain and in the U.S., 'birders' often differentiate themselves from 'birdwatchers'. At the most basic level the distinction is one of dedication or intensity. Self-described 'birders' are more focused on finding and studying birds than on general observation, and they tend to be more versed in such minutiae as moult, distribution, migration timing and routes, and habitat usage. Dedicated birders tend to invest more in high-quality optical equipment, such as spotting scopes, and many birders travel widely in pursuit of their hobby. Birdwatchers tend to have a more restricted outlook, often confining their birdwatching activity to local nature reserves, their own gardens, or places visited on holiday, and, in general, they invest less in optical equipment.

The history of birding

Birding has emerged in recent decades as a popular hobby in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people consider themselves to be serious birders, and several million regard themselves as casual birders. Birding is even more popular in Britain than it is in the United States. Roger Tory Peterson played a central role in the emergence and defining of modern birding, both in the United States and Britain.
Birding in the United States was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, with persons such as Roger Tory Peterson and Ludlow Griscom being especially influential in the early days. In the mid- to late 20th century, many of the pioneering developments in American birding came out of California, where Guy McCaskie was particularly influential.
A history of birding in the United States is provided in a 2007 book by Scott Weidensaul (Of a Feather: A Brief History of Birding, Harcourt, Orlando).
A six-part History of Birding Magazine, covering the period 1968-2006, appeared in Birding magazine in 2006. This six-part history was broken down as follows:


The most active times of the year for birding in temperate zones are during the spring or fall migrations when the greatest variety of birds may be seen. On these occasions, large numbers of birds travel north or south to wintering or nesting locations.
Early morning is typically the best time of the day for birding since many birds are searching for food which makes them easier to find and observe.
Birders who are keen rarity-seekers will travel long distances to locate new and rare species, intending to add these to their list of personally observed birds. These lists often take the form of a life list, national list, state list, county list, or year list.
Seawatching is a type of birdwatching where observers based at a coastal watch point, such as a headland, watch birds flying over the sea. This is one form of pelagic birding, by which pelagic bird species are viewed. Another way birders view pelagic species is from seagoing vessels.
Many birders take part in censuses of bird populations and migratory patterns which are sometimes specific to individual species. These birders may also count all birds in a given area, as in the Christmas Bird Count. This citizen science can assist in identifying environmental threats to the well-being of birds or, conversely, in assessing outcomes of environmental management initiatives intended to ensure the survival of at-risk species or encourage the breeding of species for aesthetic or ecological reasons. This more scientific side of the hobby is an aspect of ornithology, coordinated in the UK by the British Trust for Ornithology.
Increasing seasonal bird populations can be a good indication of biodiversity or the quality of different habitats. Some species are persecuted as vermin, often illegally, as with the case of the Hen Harrier in Britain.


Twitching is a British term, meaning "the observation of a previously located rare bird". In North America, this is often called chasing.
The goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one's lists. Some birders engage in competition with one another to accumulate the longest species list. The act of the pursuit itself is referred to as a "twitch" or a "chase". A rare bird that stays put long enough for people to see it is called "twitchable" or "chaseable".
Some competitive birding competitions include the following:
  • Big Day: teams have 24 hours to identify as many species as possible.
  • Big Year: like a big day, but contestants are individuals, and need to be prepared to invest a great deal of time and money.
  • Big Sit: birders must see birds from a 15-foot (4.5 m) diameter circle. Once birds are spotted, birders can leave the circle to confirm the identity, but new birds seen may not be counted.


Prominent national organizations concerned with birding include the British Trust for Ornithology and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom and the National Audubon Society and American Birding Association in the United States. Many state-wide or local Audubon organizations are also quite active in the United States. BirdLife International is an important global alliance of bird conservation organizations.


As the numbers of birdwatchers increases, there is growing concern about the impact of birdwatching on the birds and their habitat. Birdwatching etiquette is evolving in response to this concern. Some examples of birdwatching etiquette include promoting the welfare of birds and their environment; avoiding stressing the birds by limiting use of photography and playback devices; keeping back from nests and nesting colonies; and respecting private property.


Equipment commonly used for birding includes binoculars, a spotting scope with tripod, a notepad, and one or more field guides. Hides or observation towers are often used to conceal the observers from birds, and/or to improve viewing conditions. Over the years optics manufacturers have learned that birding binoculars sell, and virtually all have specific binoculars for just that. Some have even geared their whole brand to birders.


Photography has always been a part of birding, but in the past the cost of good cameras and long lenses made this a minority, often semi-professional, interest. The advent of affordable digital cameras, which can be used in conjunction with binoculars or a telescope (a technique known as digiscoping), have made this a much more widespread aspect of the hobby.


seealso Biophilia hypothesis
Ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen considers birdwatching to be an expression of the male hunting instinct. There have been suggestion that identification of birds may be a form of gaining status which has been compared with Kula valuables noted in Papua New Guinean cultures.

Famous birders and ornithologists

seealso List of notable birdwatchers

See also


External links

birder in Afrikaans: Voëlkyk
birder in German: Vogelbeobachtung
birder in Spanish: Pajareo
birder in Esperanto: Birdumo
birder in Persian: پرنده‌نگری
birder in Italian: Birdwatching
birder in Hebrew: צפרות
birder in Dutch: Vogelen
birder in Japanese: 野鳥観察
birder in Polish: Obserwacja ptaków
birder in Finnish: Lintuharrastus
birder in Thai: การดูนก
birder in Chinese: 观鸟
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