Birding is an amazing hobby, pastime and passion that can unite people around the world, but just as we are all different individuals, we are all also different birders. Be Your Own Birder is dedicated to encouraging birding in your own personal way, but as I’ve explored what it means to be a birder, I’ve discovered three universal truths that unite all birders, regardless of who they are, why they bird or which birds they appreciate the most.
First, it is essential that you enjoy birds if you are to call yourself a birder (why would you bother being a birder if you didn’t enjoy birds?). That enjoyment can take many forms, from simple daily pleasures to more exciting avian encounters, but as a birder, you always find pleasure in the birds you see.
Second, to really consider yourself a birder, you seek out birds and find ways to purposefully bring them into your life. You might do this in the field, in your own yard, as you travel or even just in other pleasurable pursuits, such as through reading, crafts or photography. Furthermore, you live your life with birds deliberately in mind, such as through conservation efforts.
Finally, the third universal truth of birding is education. But just as education can mean anything from preschool to high school to college, advanced degrees, apprenticeships, trade schools, community classes or even independent studies, education as a birder can have many different forms, including…
- Looking up a new or unusual bird you may never have seen before
- Choosing a degree in ornithology, wildlife management or a similar field
- Studying field marks, sounds and other identification characteristics of birds
- Sharing information about birds with friends, family members and neighbors
- Introducing birds to others, either casually or through organized programs
- Keeping a birding journal or records to learn birds’ patterns and behaviors
- Reading natural history books, websites or magazines about birds
- Watching television programs and documentaries about birds
- Taking local ornithology or wildlife conservation classes that include birds
- Reading informational signs at birding hotspots and wildlife refuges
- Experimenting with feeders and landscaping to learn what attracts more birds
- Politely correcting misconceptions or errors about birds and bird identification
Just as there are thousands of birds to see in the world, there are thousands of ways to educate ourselves about them. On different occasions, I myself have…
- Read a library’s worth of birding-related books and magazines
- Studied field guides in preparation for extensive birding travel
- Taken classes to study local and regional naturalism and wildlife
- Given bird-related gifts to others, including books and field guides
- Attended informational lectures at birding festivals
- Presented lectures about backyard birding at a county fair
- Offered quizzes and games to help others sharpen their birding skills
Of course, I also do a great deal of research about birds and birding for the articles I write, not just for this website, but also for other websites, magazines, newspapers and newsletters. I’m fortunate in that birding education is part of my professional life, and that makes it easy for me to fully immerse myself in this universal truth of being a birder.
No matter how you choose to learn about birds, whether you make your own casual observations or are interested in more intensive study, education is just as much a part of being a birder as enjoying birds and deliberately adding birds to your life. And of course, the more we learn about birds, the more we can enjoy their uniqueness, and the more we will seek them out, bringing all our birding characteristics together.
No matter how you choose to do it, go out and get yourself a degree in being your own birder!