I count myself fortunate to have grown up as a birder. I don’t remember the “moment” when I got turned onto birds, but I tell people I started bird watching when I was 5 years old! In reality, it could have been earlier. I don’t know for sure, as I can’t remember anything before then!
The hobby of bird watching has influenced my whole life. I am who I am today because of the choices I made to pursue birding both as a hobby and as a vocation. I feel the hobby of bird watching has enriched my life.
Growing up, I never dreamed of traveling to far off places such as Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica and Belize—a few of the places where I have gone bird watching. I doubt I would have visited any of these places if it wasn’t for my love of birding.
I feel blessed that not only did I have a love of birds at a young age, but it was especially fortuitous that I grew up in Arizona. The state of Arizona is considered one of the best places to bird watch in the continental U.S. Birders use an expression called “species richness” to refer to the diversity and quantity of bird species found in a given area.
It just so happens that the state of Arizona has the third highest species richness of any state. Only two states have a greater variety of bird species than Arizona—California and Texas. These two states also have extensive coastline. The fact that Arizona comes in at number three is really remarkable considering we have no coastline.
As individuals progress in their journey of discovering birds—and pursue bird watching as a hobby—they have a natural curiosity to learn more. They want to get their hands on a good bird book and on a good pair of binoculars. They want to learn how to identify birds and learn the names of the species they are seeing. They want to learn about bird behavior. They want to identify birds by their vocalization, and they want to learn about the ebb and flow of bird migration.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to new birders—tools to help individuals deepen their connection to wild birds and to nature as a whole. Earlier this year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department created a film titled, “Bird Watching Across Arizona,” that originally aired in March on Arizona PBS Channel 8. This film is now available on DVD, and is a great introduction to birding in Arizona.
Other resources include the ‘Field Checklist of The Birds of Arizona,’ a comprehensive checklist with all 563 species of birds that have been documented in the state. There is also a “Birds of Prescott, Arizona” checklist with almost 370 species that have been documented within a 10-mile radius of the Courthouse plaza in downtown Prescott.
As you start to learn about birds, you begin to understand the interdependence of nature. A bird’s needs aren’t much different than our own. Birds need food, water, shelter, and places to rear young. Birds need native habitat with plants that act as a smorgasbord—providing food such as seeds, nuts, nectar and acting as a host for insects that make up a huge part of their diet.
I invite you to take advantage of some of these resources to help you grow in your love of wild birds. Who knows what impact bird watching may have on you? I believe that this hobby will enrich your life.
Until next week, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.