Updated: Jul 8
You have likely heard both terms before, but do you identify as a birder or a birdwatcher?
The birdwatching/birding world gained a lot of new members during the quarantine period of 2020. App downloads reached record highs, Google searches were reaching new peaks, and eBirding saw some real boosts! If you are new to the bird world, you may not know where you sit amongst these silly terms. I am here to help you!
If a Great Black Hawk found in Maine makes your heart race, knees weak, palms sweaty, and nauseous from your mom's spaghetti, you are likely a birder. If instead, you said to yourself, "What is a Great Black Hawk?" you probably lean birdwatcher (or you are new). So, what are the differences between the two? It has nothing to do with how knowledgeable you are! Read on to learn how birders and birdwatchers differ.
What are the differences between a birder and a birdwatcher?
I could offer a dictionary-style definition of each with an associated anecdote. However, that is not how we do things at Flocking Around. Instead, we will use real and outrageous scenarios to help you learn where the line is between the two.
Scenario 1 - Birth of a child
Have you ever missed the birth of a child because of, at minimum, a Code 3 rarity? It does not have to be your child, but must be immediate family and friends. If you answered yes, you might take birds a little too seriously... or you are an avid birder. If you did not know there was an established system ranking birds based on how frequently they are found in the ABA region, congratulations, you have probably not missed many major life events because of your birdwatching.
Birder - might miss a significant birth due to a bird
Birdwatcher - likely will arrive at the hospital with a onesie... or a lasagna
Scenario 2 - Arrival of a tropical storm
Usually, when a tropical storm forms in the Gulf or the Atlantic and is given a name, most people prepare their homes and pack their emergency bags. If you look at your life list, prep your optics, charge your camera batteries, and find all non-evacuation routes to seawatching locales, you probably consider yourself a birder. Do not be fooled, birdwatchers can also reap the bird-benefits of a cyclone that travels inland, but birders can take 'storming' to the extreme.
Birder - may walk the line of recklessness to see pelagic species prior to severe weather
Birdwatcher - seeks shelter and follows orders of weather safety officials
Scenario 3 - Seek adrenaline and thrills
Big days, big weeks, big years, birding classics, biggest week, world series, etc. These terms mean nothing to thousands of people. However, if your salivary glands are suddenly active, you fall into a distinct group. If the thought of triple-digit species lists, 24-hour bird days, and bragging rights gives you the goose-tingles, you, my friend, are a birder.
Birder - often found sleeping in the back of their car, chasing, competing, breaking records
Birdwatcher- sleeps in a normal bed usually, sometimes even as late at 7 am...
Scenario 4 - Library space used by bird books
How many bookshelves do you own? No. I mean how many bookshelves do you own. If your birding guides and references fit on a shelf (in the singular), you likely have found great discipline in not owning too many bird books. Of course, I don't believe there is such a thing as too many bird books. Oh no, that means I am a...
Birder - had to purchase an industrial style shelf to hold their references and guides
Birdwatcher - has their bird guide on the windowsill nearest to their feeders
Scenario 5 - Social media participation
There are hundreds of bird and birding related groups and pages on Facebook. If your social media newsfeed is filled with photos, stories, and memories from friends and family, you are likely a birdwatcher. If your feed is dominated by bird identification questions, birding advice, and an abundance of donation requests from large bird conservation organizations (we all know who I'm referring to), you probably identify as a birder.
Birder - birding groups are a way to get more birds during times you might not normally get birds
Birdwatcher - may be part of a local group but does not go out of their way to correct someone's identification (may instead say "Beautiful photo!"