|Birders looking for a Snowy Owl on Tybee Island|
One term bird enthusiasts use often is the word “muggle,” in reference to those who do not hold an interest to birds - a word borrowed from the famous Harry Potter novel series, referring to the public unaware of the magical world. Many bird enthusiasts view the public in this manner: unaware of the magic of birds. While most “muggles” are aware this community exists, they do not know what it entails. They consider all bird lovers “birdwatchers” and routinely picture an old woman watching goldfinches from her kitchen window. Although they are not entirely wrong, they are oblivious to the converse side of the bird community.
To most bird enthusiasts, being a “birdwatcher” and being a “birder” have two separate meanings. It is much more meaningful to an enthusiast to be a “birder,” and any birder with an elitist syndrome is likely to look down on a “birdwatcher” as ignorant and inexperienced. These birders share the view of the “muggles,” picturing birdwatchers as old women flipping through pocket guides at their kitchen window, habitually misidentifying Chipping Sparrows as “finches.” This rather unpopular view of birdwatchers is held only by a select few birders and most birders respect birdwatchers as like-minded members of their little clade. From a juxtaposed perspective, a birder’s view of a birdwatcher may be likened to a famous athlete contemplating his or her fans. The fans have an interest in his sport, but they do not actively take part in it. Birdwatchers are dipping their toes in the water while birders are diving in head-first.
Thus, in actuality, being a “birder” is more than watching birds. Birding is a lifestyle. For a birder, birds are the underlying factor when considering life choices. Whether it is choosing a car, buying a house, applying for a job, or picking a spouse, a birder makes sure it corresponds with his or her feathery interest. Extra money goes to expensive and necessary birding equipment, such as
|The King Rail is a species you won't see on your feeder!|
Some enthusiasts may argue there is no difference between birders and birdwatchers and that any such argument is simply splitting hairs. Others may contend that birdwatching is a part of every birder. After all, all bird enthusiasts started out watching birds from the window. It is true these arguments have some veracity. Few things are ever black-and-white (with the exception of Mniotilta varia), and there are bird enthusiasts that consider themselves in-between birders and birdwatchers, but the majority of bird lovers relate themselves to one group or the other. This categorizing helps them to associate with like-minded people.
Therefore, it is important to note the distinguishing factors of the two groups. The primary difference between a birder and a birdwatcher is simply the degree of interest and the measure of motivation. Birders are obsessed. In addition to having an irrevocable love for birds, they thoroughly enjoy the chase and all the risks birding necessitates. Birdwatchers are casual. Their passion for birds is less invigorating and their motivation is minimal, but the interest is ever-present. Birders seek out birds, birdwatchers watch birds. Each category is unique with its own special perks and the bird community welcomes and encompasses all types of enthusiasts – birders and birdwatchers alike.