Are birders getting a bad rap?

Eugene Hunn enhunn at
Fri Mar 8 13:34:35 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 call 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 that obnoxious
birder is probably 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. This is a small breach of
etiquette, not a national disaster, and a problem that can be handled best
among the birding community. 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, frighten the neighborhood children 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
(and quiet) stream of people who would like to visit the neighborhood in the
next week or two hoping to see the rarity. And emphasize what 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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