How to Become a Birder…

A few days ago I found a post on the blog of The Nature Conservancy saying how to become a birder in four easy steps. It describes the tools, from the binoculars to field guides, and actions better to take for being a birder or birdwatcher.

I clearly remember how I became a birdwatcher 30 years ago. That wasn’t started by simply buying a binocular. To be honest didn’t even know a field guide existed until the Peterson guide was introduced to me. That time there was no internet, no mailing lists just a nice old ornithologist who directed me to find the right way to be a good birdwatcher.


White Stork is an easy target species in Europe. © György Szimuly

Prior to this I was admired by the richness of birdlife and their colours. Great vocation and respect is also needed to become a good birdwatcher. In order to make ethical birding thus becoming a good birdwatcher, we have to know or have to acquire the knowledge on the life of birds, we have to listen and understand the actions our birds are doing in the field. If we don’t listen these moments a fatal step would easily taken.

I rarely see young or beginner birders birding alone. The best is to join to an expert and pick up knowledge on birds, their life-cycle, the habitat they prefer or the song they sing and so on. Birding camps and courses are a useful opportunity to get close to birds. A birder having 3,000 bird species on his/her list is not necessarily a good birder but a good traveller who count the bird species seen/heard/showed. Start birding around your home and try to go green. It is not always possible but if you can do it then do it. Later, when you have knowledge you can travel across the world for new species.

One said: if you read 10 different books on the particular topic you are close to be called as an expert on that topic. That is also true in birding. Start reading tale-like birding novels. I loved them so much and encouraged me to go out and listen even more carefully. Then read conservation related articles (not hard-core research papers!) to understand the status of birds around you.

You are a good birder if you mix the joy of birdwatching with active field work to support conservation programmes. Bird counts are essential and indispensable tool for bird conservation. Without data on bird numbers and the trends of their populations decision makers cannot stand by birds. Lets pick up your binocular, place your field guide into your backpack and carefully listen to birds, learn to count them and share your data with others.


One thought on “How to Become a Birder…

  1. Totally agree with all that you said. My journey started with an enjoyment for walking and then starting to take notice of the birds i could see and hear……one thing lead to another so a pair of bins were bought and a field guide and i h…aven’t looked back. I’m also lucky to have a few very experienced birders in my social circle and to learn off those guys is much better than any book. Also the comment you made about monitoring is also a good one as it gets you paying attention to the commoner birds and their behaviour, all too often i speak to birders who proclaim that there’s nothing about when in fact there’s tons of stuff but because its not rare they’re not interested. I also agree with the comment about listers. When i have been to see rare birds in the uk i’m often amazed at just how bad at birding some of those guys are! Most only know they’ve seen the bird they’re after because someone has pointed to it and said “there it is”, they make no attempt at identifying it themselves….i will admit i do go twitching but that is mainly so i can learn from the bird i’m travelling to see to hopefully aid my identification skills incase one turns up at my local patch.

    I think the only thing i would add to your article in respect to becoming a better birder is to recognise your own limitations and work to improve them…..if you don’t know about a certain aspect of birding go and find someone who does and learn from them

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