“I’m not a birder, but I do enjoy my bird feeders.” We hear this a lot when we’re out and about, birding at a preserve or at a coastal overlook or some other place where others are out enjoying the same place. The conversation usually starts by them asking what we’re seeing for birds, and their response is almost always one of interest.
And then we get the, “I’m not really a birder,” comment.
Well, guess what? If you enjoy birds, watch them, feed them, talk about them, or otherwise are paying attention to them, congratulations! You’re a birder.
Since there seems to be ongoing confusion among the general public about what qualifies a person to identify themselves as a birder, we thought it might be helpful to offer up our thoughts, based on our many years of experience enjoying birds ourselves:
Bird Feeders Providing on your property even one bird feeder and the seed and/or suet that goes in it requires an initial investment of cash, as does keeping that feeder (or feeders) full. This level of commitment is not going to be made by someone who doesn’t intend to pay attention to the benefactors of this investment. You, friend, are a birder.
Bird Houses Like birder feeders, bird houses require a commitment. Once made, is there anything more satisfying than when a bluebird or chickadee takes you up on your offer of housing? Go ahead, call yourself a birder. We’ve found that this often leads the birder to use language like, “My bluebirds are back.”
“My bluebirds are back.” When you’ve developed such a fondness for the birds around your yard that you refer to them the way you do your own offspring when they, say, return from a semester at college, it’s safe to say you’re a birder.
Sporting Event Birding Do you find yourself noticing the songs of birds when you’re at your child or grandkids’ soccer or field hockey games? Whether or not the plaintive whistle of a bird is more apt to hold your attention than the referee’s, you’re a birder.
Voice Recordings A friend of ours—let’s call her Beth Comeau—was so intrigued with the voice of a songster in her yard that she recorded it with her phone and sent it to us for ID. She was proud of herself for hearing the voice, and then for this extra step of recording it for an ID, but did she consider herself a birder? She should—even though the singer did turn out to be a frog!
Sharing Photos A quick skim through social media will reveal no less than a zillion places where people can share their photos of birds. And they do, by the zillions. Birders? We think so.
Chore Birding Do you find yourself tuning into songsters in your adjoining woods while you’re doing yard work? Do you stop to see what bird that was that flitted up from the lawn when you were carrying the recycling bin to the curb? This is a special kind of birding we call “chore birding,” and if you do it, you’re a birder.
This list describes just a few examples of why you just might be a birder. But, whether you consider yourself a birder or not, actions you take to protect the environment help birds in a whole lot of ways. Visit the Take Action Center of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and National Audubon’s Action Center for ways you can make a difference.
—Allison & Jeff Wells
Banner photo: White-breasted Nuthatch by Tina Richard