Bird-watching, or birding, is a form of wildlife observation in which people, like you and me, observe the wonder and beauty of birds. This can be done as a hobby or as part of a citizen science project. It can be done wherever you go, as birds are all around us. Most birdwatchers use binoculars or scopes to help identify the trickier species, but you can also "bird by ear" as most birds have unique songs and calls that distinguish them from one another.
Whether you are bird-watching or birding by ear, it takes time, patience, and practice to become an expert bird watcher. Consider looking into our bird class and walks so the experts at Manatee Audubon Society can help you out! Bird-watching is usually pursued as a hobby, however, if you would like to help scientists and ornithologists study and protect the bird species that are under constant threat check out our Conservation page and sign up to be a volunteer!
Some History ...
The first recorded use of the term birdwatcher was in 1891; bird was introduced as a verb in 1918. The term birding was also used for the practice of fowling or hunting with firearms as in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602): "She laments sir... her husband goes this morning a-birding." The terms birding and bird-watching are today used by some interchangeably, although some participants prefer birding, partly because it includes the auditory aspects of enjoying birds.
In North America, many birders differentiate themselves from birdwatchers, and the term birder is unfamiliar to most people. At the most basic level, the distinction is perceived as one of dedication or intensity, though this is a subjective differentiation. Generally, self-described birders perceive themselves to be more versed in the specifics of birds such as identification (aural and visual), molt, distribution, migration timing, and habitat usage. Whereas these dedicated birders may often travel specifically in search of birds, birdwatchers have been described by some enthusiasts as having a more limited scope, perhaps not venturing far from their own yards or local parks to view birds. Indeed, in 1969 a Birding Glossary appeared in Birding magazine which gave the following definitions:
Birder. The acceptable term used to describe the person who seriously pursues the hobby of birding. May be professional or amateur.
Birding. A hobby in which individuals enjoy the challenge of bird study, listing, or other general activities involving bird life.
Bird-watcher. A rather ambiguous term used to describe the person who watches birds for any reason at all, and should not be used to refer to the serious birder.