On my trip to Trinidad in January, one of the participants verbalized an observation he had made.  He explained how he felt there were four different kinds of birders—recreational, educational, avid and rabid. In case you were wondering into what category I fit, he said that I am a rabid birder. (Did you already guess that?)

As a life-long birdwatcher, and an owner of two backyard wild bird stores, I also find myself categorizing people’s interest in birds.  I have come to the conclusion that there are primarily two kinds of birders—casual backyard birders and field birders.

For most people, their interest in birds starts gradually and develops over a long period of time. Maybe their interest in birds was initially influenced by their parents or their grandparents who fed birds in their yard. Interestingly, those who fit into the casual, backyard birder category usually don’t even think of themselves as being birders, which I think is kind of amusing. 

Individuals who are more serious about birdwatching typically go beyond just watching the birds in their yard. Rather, they go out into the field to see birds. Field birders travel to birding destinations with the goal of seeing specific target birds. They participate in organized bird walks put on by local organizations. Field birders like to explore different parts of their community, county, state, country or even travel abroad to see bird species they would never encounter where they live.

One of the nice things about the hobby of birdwatching, is that it is easy to get started with a minimal investment. The most basic tools for birdwatching are a pair of binoculars and a field guide. Binoculars bring the bird to you, magnifying the image at which you are looking. A good field guide helps you to identify what you are seeing. Your field guide should be specific to the region where you live, rather than covering a broad area such as North America. 

One of the things I like about the hobby of birdwatching is how it can be easily combined with so many other outdoor activities. For example, if you like to do a lot of walking or hiking, it is easy to take your binoculars with you in case you see something of interest.

Another convenient feature of birdwatching is that you can participate in this hobby wherever you are. I personally have never been anywhere where there weren’t birds. You can find birds at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and at the top of the San Francisco Peaks!  I know, because I have done both.

So how can you grow into the hobby of birdwatching? Start simple. Start in the comfort of your own home. I love the fact that I can watch birds by simply looking out the window. It’s that easy.  Start with a hummingbird feeder, or maybe a seed or suet feeder. Let the birds come to you. Create an environment in your yard that is inviting to wild birds.    

However, I will caution you—the hobby of birdwatching will grow on you!  I find the more I watch birds, the more I want to watch them. For me, bird watching is a hobby that helps strengthen my connection to nature and the Creator of nature. 

In these unnerving times, bird watching is a great way to forget about the cares of the world — and there are many — and find peace, relaxation and a sense that, while there is turmoil in the world, nature remains a constant.  

Until next week, be well and Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona — Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com