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Those of us who are birdwatchers have probably occasionally found ourselves trying to explain the appeal of our hobby to non-birdwatchers, and if you've managed to do it successfully, I salute you.

The conversation for me always seems to start at "So, you just really like birds?"

"Err..." I always say. "Not exactly..."

This is awkward because I don't actually really like birds--I mean, I really like dogs, I quite like cats, I dearly love the idea of wombats (even if I wouldn't want to share the house with one) but I don't have that kind of burning affection for birdkind. I would never own a bird. They are beautiful creatures, I can stare at a scarlet macaw or a peach-faced lovebird for hours, but give me a dog any day. There are lots of pets that I don't have the lifestyle to accommodate, but while I feel a pang for my inability to keep a Rottweiler happy, I feel no such pangs over the fact I can't have a parrot. I am a mammal-ist.

And while I think birds are neat, and I wish them the best of their tiny little avian lives, birdwatching is not motivated by the same sort of affection that governs many of our interactions with animals. I love birds, but it's a broad abstract love.

The best I've ever managed to explain is that it's like collecting. It's not really the bird so much as the joy of the chase, the surprise, whatever. If you collect comics, if you are a particular kind of collector, you may know that issue #741 has mediocre art and a lousy story, but that's not the POINT. The joy of having #741 turn up while you're flipping idly through the boxes at an estate sale remains.

And of course, with birds, there's no storage required of anything but binoculars.

Anyway, I thought of all of that because I read a great blog entry by a non-birder who lives with a birder, and who made the comic collection analogy, and it cracked me up. Also, just read the Birdchick Blog in general, it's cool and has bird banding and bees.

i, as an avid non-birder, can see the attraction of birding... although the tromping through the woods part is only tolerable after coffee :::grins:::

i have friends who are birders. funnily enough, NONE of them actually have a bird as a pet.

try this:

"remember those "Where's Waldo" books, and how exciting it was to look at those big, complex pictures, and find all sorts of neat details, and a thousand things you'd never seen before every time you looked? it's like that."

grr.. new firefox is helpfully not logging me into things.

You could tell people it's sort of like a scavenger hunt.

I figure part of the pleasure is just having this knowledge and applying it now and then. Exercising your brain. Seeing the world around you in some level of detail and thinking about it. Making some set of pattern-recognition/integration/theorization circuits in your brain fire is fun.


What's not to love about birds?

When they start screaming "Go away, this is MY property!" at their feathered neighbours... in front of your open window... at 4:30 in the morning. @_@

When they poop all over your car because they are nesting in your garage.

My first thought on "how to explain birding" was "I guess it's a bit like collecting postage stamps". Which I really enjoy. It's less work than tromping through the countryside to find birds.

It's like watching trees blow in the wind, flowers, grass, the beach. Appreciation of nature for being nature and pretty. It's simple yet elegant.

*floats by*

I wish more people would bird watch than bird keep. Most pet birds seem to have a very shitty life, cooped up in a cage, not flying around.

agreed. few people have the time/energy it takes to own the messy little buggers. I love parrots, but would only own one or two species because they are the only kind i could dedicate time to without feeling chained to a squwaky mess maker. I know few birds who perfer you to tote them everywhere, despite their normal functioning wings :D but they are spoiled, not neglected.

It would never have occured to me to ask someone why they like birdwatching. I would imagine part of it just stems from a natural curiousity about the world around you, esp. the natural world. Plus it seems as good an excuse as any to get outside for awhile.

It goes the other way too. Most aviculture people that I know (myself included. ) love their pet parrots, but they are most definitely not birders.

That definitely applies to me!

Both your post and the linked one had me laughing out loud. I have plenty of non birding friends and they scratch their head at me a lot. I have never been able to explain to them how excited I get by swamps, sewage lagoons and other bird filled places. I just found directions to a nearby sewage lagoon that has Peregrines, shorebirds and a pair of nesting osprey. I'm all fired up to check it out this weekend:) Yes, sewage lagoons:)

Hey, there's nothin' like sewage lagoons!

I'm definitely a mammal-ist when it comes to pets, and have never understood the appeal of parrots, despite my friends adoration of them. However, I find I highly enjoy keeping domestic fowl (chickens and ducks) and after raising an orphaned pigeon, am a bit swayed by her devoted antics. Although I think pigeons still count as reasonably domestic.

And here I thought you were looking more at self-mobile feathered art, rather than looking at birds.

I have been an avid birder (pin intended) for 18 years. Now that I am retired, it's pretty much all I do. For me, birding is like an Easter Egg hunt. All the beautifully colored and patterned, "Prizes" are hidden everywhere in the fields and forests, and if you have trouble finding one, it will call out to you a hint. As a pet, I prefer a rabbit, cat, or dog. I really don't want a pet bird at all.

For the last 4 or 5 years I have pretty much birded with a camera only and really dont use binoculars much, except to locate birds to take pictures of. Here is the BEST bird picture I've taken to date. I took this from about 12 inches away from the bird on my deck in February 2007. It is a male Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, my favorite Wintertime bird.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

An excellent pic of a Ruby Crowned Kinglet. It even shows the red spot. Wow!