Whether there is a pattern in personality traits of people who enjoy bird watching or not, one thing is certain: Bird watchers come from all walks of life. It is interesting to observe the styles of bird watching.
There are approximately 10,000 species of birds throughout the world and there are nearly as many different types of birders depending on how each individual defines their hobby. What type of birder are you? The answer may not be as clear as you think – just as many bird species can be challenging to identify, it can also be difficult to determine what type of birder you are, especially when so many birders are really many species of hobbyists.
A bird watcher enjoys both backyard birds and whatever species they may see while traveling or visiting parks, but they do not necessarily plan their vacations or activities with the intent of seeing new or unusual birds. They also do not deliberately stock feeders with different items to attract a range of species, nor do they deliberately plan a landscape that is first and foremost suitable to the birds. A bird watcher is familiar with local, common birds but may not be able to easily identify rare or intermittent visitors.
A backyard birder enjoys the birds that visit nearby and actively seeks to attract a range of species to the yard through different feeders, birdhouses and a bird-friendly landscape. They can frequently identify both everyday and seasonal species, as well as some of the more unusual guests to their yard. This is the easiest type of birder to be, because birding in the backyard does not necessarily require specialized equipment beyond a general field guide and a basic set of binoculars. While this is the first step for many dedicated birders, it is rarely the last step because seeing new species and observing their behavior can be an exciting, addictive beginning to a lifelong passion.
A true “birder” actively observes and studies different birds in order to see new species and to learn more about their behavior, habitats and personalities. Birders often plan travel to festivals to see more birds and they may take photography or basic ornithology classes to expand their knowledge and enjoyment of the hobby. Birders may also participate in organized competitions and birding marathons to see a wide number of species. Birders can generally identify every species on their life list, though they may consult with numerous field guides for certainty.
A twitcher’s favorite bird is the newest one they’ve seen. These passionate birders actively seek to add more birds to their life list, and they may travel extensively when rare or unusual birds are reported. Keeping a single checklist may not be sufficient – twitchers often keep checklist for particular seasons or locations to keep track of just where they’ve seen the many birds on their life list.
A citizen scientist is a serious birder, often active in multiple bird conservation and education events. These birders participate in annual counts and report their findings to the appropriate organizations, and they also seek to promote conservation of bird species and their essential habitats. A citizen scientist may organize educational or birding events, or they may be volunteers with various aviaries or rehabilitation centers.
An ornithologist is a professional birder with advanced scientific training about not only bird species but also about behavior, anatomy, physiology and bird species history. Being an ornithologist requires years of higher education, and many ornithologists lead extensive research projects to promote bird conservation. Many ornithologists specialize in very rare or endangered bird species rather than focusing on more common birds."
I think there may be one "type" of birder that can be added to this list. How about:
This would be a birder who will go to great lengths to get a good look at a bird. This may include tethering oneself to the railing at Cape Spear to keep from blowing away while trying to discern if there is one King Eider among a flock of 3000 Common Eider. You may find the Extreme Birder (better known as a little stunned) edging closer and closer to the water's edge until they sink up to their waist in bog to see if a Gadwall is tucked into the shoreline. It is also possible to find an Extreme Birder tangled up in the twisted Tuckamore on the barrens in hot pursuit of a rare Warbler or gingerly inching across the thin ice to better identify a different gull. An Extreme Birder can be found in sub-zero temps with 100 kph winds for extended periods of time waiting for a special bird to return to its initial point of sighting. These would be the same birders who drive along the roadways at 5 kph scouring the bushes and treetops looking for an unexpected fowl to appear. Or, you may find an extreme birder's car buried up to the fender in muck and mire as a result of venturing into uncharted terrain in an attempt to get closer to a rare bird without flushing it. How can you identify an extreme birder? Well, for sure, they will have a pair of binoculars hung around their neck and maybe even a huge camera in tow. Their boots may be muddy or pants may be wet, their car may look like it has just competed the Targa race, or their nose may be bright red and finger tips, blue. One thing is for sure their eyes will shine with excitement, their facial expression will be peaceful and accentuated with a very contented smile.