Monday, August 21, 2006

11 Reasons To Take Up (Or Continue) Birding

Lest anyone get the wrong idea from my post last week, I am putting up a list of reasons why I enjoy birding. Every birder is driven by different motivations, but usually several themes repeat themselves. I am sure some of the following will be familiar to other birders.

  1. Birds are diverse. Just consider the warbler family, with its array of differences in appearance, voice, and behavior, then apply that to the other 9500 or so birds on the planet. You will never run out of new birds to see.
  2. Birds are challenging. Sure, it's easy to tell a robin from a cardinal or a blue jay, but distinguishing gulls by sight or warblers by sound takes practice. There are always new identification tricks to learn.
  3. Spring migration. There are few natural phenomena quite like spring migration, when millions of birds move thousands of miles from their wintering to their breeding grounds, all in a compressed period of time. The sudden diversity is enough to make one's head spin.
  4. Birds are beautiful. As attested in this meme, we admire birds for their beauty. One never tires of seeing scarlet tanagers, blackburnian warblers, or indigo buntings.
  5. Birds sing. Birding is about learning and appreciating not just visual beauty and diversity, but also the many varied vocalizations that birds use. And many songs are quite beautiful. (Here are a few of my favorites.)
  6. Birds are everywhere. Since birds have adapted to fill almost every location on earth, you do not have to go far to find some to watch.
  7. Birds are unpredictable. Some bird species will always be there, day after day. Others wander unpredictably, so that you never can be sure what birds you will see on any given excursion. And sometimes, you will see something totally unexpected.
  8. Building community. Like other activities, birding can be done alone or with groups. Birding alone gives you the time to study birds carefully and work out identification problems. Birding with groups gives the opportunity to compare notes and learn from others. Networks of birders communicate through email lists, newsletters, and birding hotlines.
  9. Connection with the natural world. Unlike many other animals, birds are easily visible and audible. Watching birds is an easy window into the workings of the ecosystems around us.
  10. Birders contribute to our understanding of bird population trends. Christmas Bird Counts help establish the numbers of birds that winter throughout the United States and Canada. Spring and fall migration counts serve a similar purpose. Birding organizations in many states have undertaken breeding surveys, resulting in breeding bird atlases. The data includes not only how which birds are breeding in each atlas block, but also the nest type and location.
  11. Responsibility. Through birding, many of us come to a greater appreciation of nature and our place in it. This should lead us to support conservation efforts and attempt to reduce our individual impact on the environment. Many birders do.
Feel free to add your own reasons in the comments.