Are birders getting a bad rap?

Eugene Hunn enhunn at
Fri Mar 8 10:58:20 PST 2002

I don't consider myself to be a real birdwatcher, but I've lived with one
for over 35 years and in that time have had the pleasure of meeting many
great people who share a passion for birds. I've met quiet ones, loud ones,
quirky ones, persistent ones, funny ones, incredibly knowledgeable ones and
ones who willingly suffer what I consider to be unacceptable physical
discomfort to see a bird. I've met ones who dip their Twinkies in mustard
and consider that breakfast, and others who will stand under a tree all
night long hoping to see the owl they hear hooting inside the branches. But
in all those years I've never met an obnoxious birder, although I'm sure
that obnoxious birder is out there somewhere. (This is not to say that all
birders are perfect. Sometimes birders, perfectly acceptable people in all
other respects, step off the path to see a bird. I consider this a small
breech of etiquette, not a national disaster, and a problem that can be
handled best among the birding community by fellow birders reminding others
of their responsibility to respect private property and protected habitats.)
Which brings me to the point of all this: what is being told to the
homeowner when a rare bird shows up at the feeder and s/he has to decide
whether to make this knowledge public? Are birders being portrayed as
thoughtless idiots who will trample the flower beds, clog the streets by
their sheer numbers, and set all the neighborhood dogs barking? Perhaps the
next time Seattle Audubon gets a call from an excited homeowner with a rare
bird coming to the feeder, the SAS representative who checks out the bird
should change the sales pitch. Tell about the many thoughtful birders and
naturalists in the community who would get great pleasure out of a sharing
of this bird Instead of alarming the homeowner with tales of "hundreds" of
birders descending upon the neighborhood, tell him instead of the steady
but polite stream of people who will be visiting the neighborhood for the
next week or two hoping to see the rarity. And emphasize, as a recent
contributor said, that the birders are not there to look at the homeowner,
they're there to see the bird.

Nancy Hunn

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