Birding Terminology 101

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I was chatting with my grandmother a few days ago and she mentioned how much she enjoyed bird-watching. I then told her that I was officially a birder! She then asked me, “What’s a birder?”

I always thought the term seemed pretty straightforward but, perhaps not!

So, let’s discuss some terms that revolve around bird activity and answer the following questions:

  • What is a birder?
  • How does a birder differ from a bird-watcher?
  • What is birding?
  • What on earth is twitching?!
  • What other birding terms are there?

Birders are people that go searching for birds for a variety of reason and can be defined as professionals or amateurs. I feel like whether or not you consider yourself to be a professional or an amateur is an arbitrary description you select for yourself.

A bird-watcher is someone who watches birds for any reason. I imagine bird-watchers to be like my grandmother, she is a casual observer and sits in her home looking out the window for the mere enjoyment of seeing the birds. Birders, on the other hand, have some sort of purpose behind their bird-watching. I am trying to capture the perfect photo, learn their chirps and songs, learn what types of birds visit my various feeders and why etc.

Birding is the hobby itself and consists of studying bird varieties, making lists of the types of birds you come across, sharing bird images you have personally taken, and really any other other bird-focused activity you can think of surrounding our feathered friends.

Now for twitching… what is that?! Twitching is a British term that describes the pursuit of a rare bird that has already been spotted. Twitchers typically travel a great distance to see the bird in question. Once the twitcher has spotted the bird, the bird will be “ticked” or counted on their list. The main goal of twitching for most is to grow the list of bird species they have seen. In North America, the term chasing is used instead of twitching and a bird that stays long enough to be seen is considered “twitchable” or “chaseable.”

One last term to keep in mind is a “life list” or a list of species a birder has seen in their lifetime. The list can include date, location, species and any other note of significance for you. They can also be categorized by country, state, county, year, and even yard. Perhaps you see certain birds when you’re visiting your parent’s yard and others when you are in your own etc.

All in all, I continue to find birding a fun and rewarding activity that helps me to connect with friends and family that share similar interests and of course gets me out in nature to see the birds!

I hope you’ll join us on this birding journey!

Happy Birding!


Image by Laura Ceville @birdhouselove