You Might be a Birder If...

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Pied-billed Grebe
A few months ago, I was talking with a few friends of mine, and I happened to mention that I was a birder--I mentioned some place I went over the weekend.  One of my friends asked a couple questions about it and then the topic of conversation changed.  Later, this friend approached me privately and said, almost with an attitude of confession, "I'm a birder too. I don't let many people know because I don't want them to think I'm a nerd."

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Ring-necked Ducks
I've noticed in recent years that I have progressed from being a nature photographer that loves to photograph birds to being more of a bird photographer and even a "birder."  I was thinking that there ought to be a way to diagnose the condition.  Are you just someone who loves nature and because of that enjoy birds, or are you an actual "birder?"  Here's my list of top 10 signs you may be a birder:
  1. You carry binoculars with you in your car so that you can be ready at any time for spontaneous birding.  You may even recognize that you need them to identify birds while stopped at traffic lights.
  2. You arrive at destinations (work, appointments) a little early so that you can see what birds may be foraging in the trees of the parking lot or surrounding properties.
  3. You own more than one field guide, and/or you have a birding app on your phone. And you use them.
  4. You log your findings on eBird.
  5. You take time off work to see migrating birds.
  6. You correct your friends and family when they misidentify birds.  "Look at that pretty duck!"  You respond, "That's not a duck, it's a Pied-billed Grebe."
  7. Your friends know to come to you when they've seen a bird they can't identify.  "I saw this interesting bird yesterday...."
  8. You can't let them stop describing the bird until you identify it.
  9. You make birding jokes.  "Do you know how to tell an Ovenbird from a 'Stovebird?'  The difference is the range."  Or, you create bird-like names for non-birds--for instance, calling a squirrel a "Fluffy-tailed Nutcatcher."
  10. You know the actual meaning of words like "rufous," "ruddy" and "buff."
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Fluffy-tailed Nutcatcher
If this describes you, don't panic.  There is no cure; there's no recovery.  You will likely have this condition for the rest of your life.  But it's a great condition to have.  As many as 20% of the population of the U.S. are birders.  We don't have to consider ourselves "bird nerds."  We have a hobby that gets us outdoors instead of in front of a screen; by walking around searching for birds, we get more exercise. Because we love nature, we can make positive contributions to the environment.  Make no mistake about it; birding is cool.


  1. This is a fun post Scott. I've never had someone confess birding to me, but I definitely fit most of your criteria, especially number 9.
    I have co-workers now come to me with "I saw this unusual bird yesterday. It was kinda big and brownish." Then they expect a diagnosis. Lamentably, I often don't have an answer, but I suspect all they wanted to do was make conversation anyway. It's a great hobby.

  2. Wow, birder shame! I love it! I think that 20% number includes people who occasionally look at birds (i.e., at a feeder outside of their window)...the number of us who match your criteria are probably more like 1%. The country would be a very different (and better) place if 1 in 5 of us were hardcore birders.

  3. Yea, I can't say that 1 in 5 of the people I know would fall into the types of birders on my list. Perhaps 1 in 5 are "casual birders," if we could use that term. My list is for more dedicated birders I suppose. The world would be a much better place, though, wouldn't it?

  4. I expected you would come up with symptoms like 'Eating seeds', 'Using Twitter to communicate', or 'To constantly ruffle someone's feathers'.
    Funny post! Hope more people suffer Birding-Symptoms and aren't too ashamed to tell :-)

  5. Pretty funny. I think I fall into most of those. I own 3 guides and an iphone app. My co-workers think I'm a nerd but we laugh about it.


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