Twitching vs Chasing

David Ridgway dridgin at
Thu Mar 21 11:08:12 PST 2002

Hi Tweeters,

I was told that 'twitching' is the British term for the
emotional/physical state of an enthusiastic birder in pursuit of a rare
bird. My wife read an article in a birding magazine which said the
British term 'twitching' came from the long motorcycle rides to the site
where a rare bird had been spotted. The birder was often cold and still
vibrating from the ride as well as excited about the possibilities,
hence 'twitching'. Chasing is the act of getting to the site and finding
the bird.

My first experience with 'twitchers' was at the wetlands behind the
dunes in Cape May. My wife and I were just starting to bird and had
walked the circular route enjoying the many ducks, shorebirds,
passerines etc. We had spotted an unusual bird (to us) and had thought
we should look it up when we got back to the car. A few minutes later,
two very excited people with binos around their necks and a spotting
scope in tow approached us and in an out-of-breath trembling voice asked
if we had seen the Wilson's Phalarope. Not knowing for sure we pointed
them to the site of the unusual bird and they rushed off. We were told
later that day that those birders were 'twitching'. Perhaps here the
term has come to mean the combined emotional/physical state of the
birder as well as the act of chasing the rare bird. My take on it is
that a 'twitcher' is someone who is pretty excited about the pursuit. A
lister/ticker can be a 'twitcher', but not all lister/tickers 'twitch'.

I found the below definition here:

"Twitcher: A birder in all the good sense of the term during normal
times, but responds with frenzied activity to news of rarities in his
region, and will spend large amounts of money and travel long distances
at short notice in order to see a rarity or new bird.
Consequently is the subject of scorn from certain birdwatchers who find
this eagerness to see new birds distasteful. Is often accused (and
sometimes guilty) of contravening the Code of Ethics in his desire to
see a new bird. Due to his extra focus on rare species, it is the
twitcher who very often discovers new or rare species in the region."

Here is a link that lists several 'twitching' websites:

Have fun,

David Ridgway
David Ridgway
Eastsound, WA
mailto:dridgin at

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