Be Your Own Birder

The Universal Truths of Birding

What does it mean to be a birder? Ask anyone with binoculars, and you’re likely to get as many different answers as there are feathers on a penguin (that is to say, 80,000+). As an outlier birder myself – one who doesn’t fit established “norms” of the answer to that question – I’ve long been frustrated with the expectations that you’re only REALLY a birder if you…

  • Have a certain number of species on your life list
  • Have certain types of equipment, field guides, etc.
  • Contribute to conservation in recognized, official ways
  • Participate in tours, festivals, counts, travel or other projects
  • Devote a certain amount of time, effort or money to birding
  • Despise invasive birds, bullies or other “bad” species

That “must” list can go on and on, but the longer it gets the more divisive it becomes. I believe birding should be all-inclusive and nonjudgmental, both of the birds and the birders, and I truly feel there is no one, single way to be a birder – hence, Be Your Own Birder. But I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I do believe there are universal truths of birding, small insights that must apply if you are a birder, though they can – and do – apply in many diverse ways. Over and over I’ve thought of this, twisting it around in my mind like a whirling murmuration and applying my conclusions not only to my own birding, but to every birder I know. Just three key truths have emerged that fit every aspect of being a birder.

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore each of these three universal truths and learn what it really  means to be a birder, to bird in your own way and to not judge, condemn or criticize anyone who birds differently than you choose to. Along this journey and through these discussions, I hope you can rediscover, embrace and expand your own identity as a birder. Let’s fly!

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans – Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER

3 thoughts on “The Universal Truths of Birding

  1. Bryony Angell

    I am seeing an increasing questioning (I don’t want to say “judgement” since I am among those asking the question) of listers who travel the world in pursuit of species numbers and share their experiences readily across social media.

    What is the carbon foot print you have left in your pursuit?

    It will be an engaging conversation to explore as we move forward in our many ways to be birders.

  2. Therese Ralston

    I love this. I’m a bit of a amateur birder, but the more I do, the more I like it. I’ve just started my own blog and listed you on my fave websites. In Australia, I’m blessed to have around 320 species just around the house and surrounding our farmland. I don’t go out of this area to watch and photograph other birds, but I really like hearing about those in the UK or US. Your piece on the Lesser Flamingoes was my favourite so far. Check out my new blog, about saving the birds that crash into the windows of my home, and watching all the other fly by birds that don’t, plus adoring the pet or the fly in birds that decided to stay.

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