There's thousands of birders out there, most countries have a growing birding community. Birding itself, but also social media enables us to get in touch with other bird enthusiasts all around the world. While, of course every person is unique there's just some types of people you keep bouncing into again and again.
Here's my attempt to summarise these different types of birders. Rather than being just one type of birder, most of us are probably a combination of different types.
Don't take them too seriously ;)
The ‘nature lover’
You don’t know much about animals, but you enjoy watching the occasional nature documentary. Cat memes are the best, but that knife-carryingankle-monitor crow is funny as hell too! Did you hear about that Mandarin Duckin Central Park? Crazy, how nature does that, right?!
The amateur birdwatcher
You enjoy the tits/chickadees that turn up at the feeder in your garden. Occasionally you’ll recognise a Mallard or Blackbird while strolling through the park. You feel extremely proud, when you can identify that Jay in the picture that your Facebook friend shared. You (kinda) have a social life outside of birds and birding. Oh look, a Canadian Goose!
The amateur birder
Your biology teacher got you hooked on birding a few months ago. You now know that the term Seagull is pretty meaningless, but other than big gull and small gull you still don’t quite understand how to distinguish them all. Whenever you hear about a nature walk you always try to join in and learn about birds. You spent about as much time with your peers as with senior citizens now, who seem to own nothing but khaki clothes. Even though you’ve just entered the Birding universe, you somehow feel as if you already know just as much about birds as them.
The rising star
You get to know other birders around your age or middle-aged. Their knowledge seems incredible and to keep up with them you delve into all the field guides that cross your path! One day you’ll be that person that you’re looking up to at the moment and one day you’ll definitely be the one to find that rare warbler! If only they didn’t look all the same.
While your life list is growing very steadily, the number of people you associate with shrinks just as steadily. At least, they all share your interest. Being around non-birders starts to bore you death. Who the hell would want to visit the Empire State Building, when a Saw-whet Owl was recently reported on eBird from Central Park? Oh, and that ‘Seagull’ that just flew overhead was a Herring Gull! How could people not know that?
During one of the bird walks, which you now regularly lead, there was this herper guy who seemed to be equally as knowledgeable about his critters as you are about birds. Some of your Facebook friends always share those awesome macro pictures of insects. And you recently met this incredibly cute girl, who’s into plants. Weird flex, but ok…
You notice that there’s just so much more to observe than only birds. Also you enjoy that cool sensation of discovering a whole new world, a similar feeling to when you first got involved in birding. There’s just soooo much out there and you want to learn EVERYTHING about every living organism (except maybe plants – they’re boring).
The more you immerge into the world of birding, the more you sense that your fulfilment lies within e.g. Seawatching. That feeling of acknowledgement that you received, when you correctly called out the Long-tailed Jaeger first, it just fills you with pride. And you know that that respect is genuine, as you feel similar towards your friend who has become an expert in flight-call identification and you love your other friend who spends his life studying penguins in the Antarctic. But not gull-watchers, those are just weird!
Your favourite magazine has always been National Geographic and one day you’ll publish there too! Until then you’ll have to distribute your pictures through Instagram and Facebook and get exposure. At least some of the local Birding magazines have noticed your talent.
While many birders feel as if you aren’t one of them, because you don’t enjoy driving to landfills in winter as much as they do, you wonder how many of them have already had encounters with waders at arms-length distance or an eagle sitting at eye-level right in front of them. And as soon as you get those full-frame pics of that rare Bunting they all come around to praise your ass.
Yeah, pictures are great, but the beauty in birds lies within their songs and calls! You always leave the house at ungodly hours in the night to catch that predawn chorus without any human-induced background noises and you carry your self-build parabolic reflector with you. After you return from an exhaustive birding trip around 10AM you listen to the recordings that the stationary microphone on your roof made of nocturnally migrating birds.
Your superior sound identification skills are quite likely the reason, why your team got into first place during the last Big Day.
You go birding in the same patch every day and you have thus become the leading international expert for your local swamp. You don’t only know all the other birders, who visit more or less regularly, but the local birds always come to greet you personally. Nobody has seen more species of birds (and other wildlife) in your patch than you, no one ever has before and no one ever will, but that’s not your main concern, as you won’t rest until the local birds have decided to accept them as one of their own.
The birds in your country are cool, no doubt, but the birds in the tropics are even cooler. So are the birds in high mountain ranges or in the Frigid Zone. It’s just way cooler to watch those thousands of alcids in their breeding range or listen to the roars of a lion, while watching Paradise-Whydahs display, than to stay home and watch the same birds, that you’ve seen about a trillion times before and to hope for a slightly unusual bird amongst them. There’s over ten thousand bird species out there, waiting to be shownto you by a guide.
Everybody loves travelling, but they all seem to stay on the beaten path. You’re different: You don’t want some tour guide to show you the same bird that has been shown to hundreds of other travelling birders before. You want to find it on your own, through a mixture of research, expertise, endurance and luck. People like you are the original ornithologists, those who dig up the gold. You’ll be the one to rediscover Kinglet Calyptura. You’re not afraid of getting lost in the impenetrable Fakfak Mountains and would stay a month in the high arctic during winter if it meant you would finally get your lifer Ross’s Gull. People better not get attached to you, who knows if you’ll return from your next trip to the war-zones of Congoon your search for Congo Peacock. Admit it, those darn birds have made you go totally crazy.
You’re kind of like the adventurer, except on a budget. Nothing fulfils you more than finding a rare bird on your own. You’ll scan through thousands of Geese in search of the one that doesn’t belong. You know how to distinguish any rare gull from any even rarer gull and you know the flight calls of passerines that have never even been recorded in your country. One day you’ll find that national first. Until then, your social life will have to wait. Probably even after that, who the hell could find those rarities, if not you?!
The hardcore twitcher
The second your phone vibrates you’re already sitting in your car and driving to the airport, to fly to an uninhabited island, where some lucky bastard (maybe an undiscovered birding god?) just found a Belted Kingfisher. When you hear, that it has relocated to the island nearby, you are the one to talk one of the local fishermen to take you and your birding pals over there. Congratulations, you’ve now seen your 526th species for the country, while you could have added about 100 species to your lifelist for the same money spent.
You’re not really a birder (sensu stricto), but your research revolves around ornithological matters (sensu lato), which is why you enjoy the occasional bird(watch)ing tour with your birder colleagues. Your paper about the post-breeding mating behaviour of moribund Common Murres (Uria aalge, PONTOPPIDAN 1763) was ground-breaking, but for some reasons it’s hard for you to get research grants.
You might have a scientific background, but your research for birding papers is mostly done during your free-time. You enjoy travelling to garbage dumps in the Mongolian desert to study the intricate wing-patterns of second-cycle gulls that might, possibly, one day turn up as a vagrant in your home country or you research all the sightings of vagrant Belted Kingfishers to theNetherlands (n=1). Apart from you, only about ten gull-watchers in the world understood and memorized the differences in the wing-patterns between Mongolian Gull and Vega Gull or hundreds of birders start looking for an ultra-rare vagrant Belted Kingfishers, which might not bear any biological significance, but its hella fun (and will raise your status in the birding community)!
After about 50 years of birding you’ve seen everything out there that Mother Nature could possibly think of. You’ve seen triple hybrids, 10 colour variations of a species that doesn’t even have different morphs and you’ve heard birds imitate other birds that live on the other side of world. You’ve come to the conclusion that biology is just one huge mess and that the term Seagull may in fact be appropriate. You receive about a dozen mails daily, asking you to identify a domestic-type Mallard and the press asks your opinion on matters such as invasive species, feral cats and Mandarin Ducks in Central Park. Nobody seems to care about your answers though, as everybody has already made their minds beforehand.
After about 50 years of birding you’ve identified abouteverything out there that Mother Nature could possibly think of to subspecies level. You give your opinion on identification environmental matters, even when no one asked and call everyone who disagrees an idiot. If asked for sources for your claims your favourite answer is ‘common sense’ or another similar, and very scientific, method.
What type of birder are you? Which types did I miss?
Write it in the comments below!