Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Monday, October 6, 2014

Analysis of the Differences Between Birders and Birdwatchers

Birders looking for a Snowy Owl on Tybee Island
  According to a 2011 study, there are 46.7 million bird enthusiasts in the United States. Of these 46.7 million enthusiasts, 17.8 million are considered “birders.” Most people have no idea the term “birder” exists and furthermore, are unaware of how it differs from the more familiar word “birdwatcher.” To the bird enthusiasts, however, it is a way of differentiating two levels of bird lovers, and consequently the difference between the two terms is of great importance.
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!
spotting scopes, binoculars, detailed bird books, bird song apps, bird-related t-shirts, bumper stickers, and vanity plates. Birders travel constantly, near and far, to find birds. No distance is too distant if a rare bird has been seen. Nearly all birders have a blog to record and share their escapades into the wilderness and few birders are not “listers”. Their obsession with lists is manifested in the assorted lists found on their blog: life list, year list, state list, county list, county year list, birds-seen-from-my-bathroom year list. This leads to a fair amount of competitiveness among birders, as if a large number on a list allows bragging rights. Furthermore, birders have their own unique lexicon – an amalgamation of funny words to describe various birding-related functions. “Twitching,” “pishing,” and “dipping” are simply part of a birder’s way of life and part of what being a birder entails.

The vigorous life of the birder contrasts strongly against “birdwatching,” the laid-back version of enjoying birds. Birdwatchers are essentially casual birders. They have a vague interest in birds and
mainly observe birds from their house, in their yard, or on occasion, the local park. Pocket guides and pocket binoculars are their birding supplies and they prefer to occupy their time with seemingly pointless activities such as knitting or sleeping. Birdwatchers lack the detailed knowledge of the birder due to their casual disposition and most have a difficult time differentiating Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. These bird lovers simply lack the driving motivation of the birder. Trekking through swamps and deserts or taking a boat 5 miles out to sea does not appeal to them. Birdwatchers are content watching birds from a relaxed, uncompetitive environment.
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment