[Tweeters] Serious Birders

Brett Wolfe m_lincolnii at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 27 08:26:10 PST 2004

I think the idea of 1.8 million birders in Washington State is absurd. My parents, whom I just visited for a couple of days this weekend in the Tri-Cities, love birds. They have a feeder and two baths out in their front yard that they tend to year-round. Does this make them birders? Hardly. My mom asked me last summer, I kid you not "What are those black birds that have the red wing patches?". Um, Mom, those are Red-winged Blackbirds. She always just called them "river Birds" because she associated them with driving through Columbia Park and seeing them on the Columbia River. My dear mother could not tell you if she is looking at a House Finch, a House sparrow or an American Goldfinch. All she cares is that they are neat to watch. She also loves to feed the squirrels when they come around, and put a small pile of black sunflower seeds out for one yesterday morning, because it can't reach the feeder she has out!

So, in lieu of this, IMO, just because someone has a feeder out does not make them a birder. And I would say that there is a strong likelihood that the number of estimated "birders" is highly skewed with people who just feed birds, as opposed to those of us who watch, identify, band, etc. My folks love birds, they feed them, and go for drives through the park to watch the ducks and geese, and I am glad that they do. But as far as what they are looking at, they are mostly ignorant, and content to be so. Not a bad thing, just the way it is. I know many other people just like them. And not a single one of them is what I would call a "birder". They are just folks who like to watch birds, and I for one think that there is a very big difference. Cheers all!

Brett A. Wolfe
Seattle, WA

SGMlod at aol.com wrote:

Sorry for the attempt at humor, for this is a serious topic. Yes, Hal, one doesn't have to be a lister to be a knowledgeable birder.

But I doubt there are 1.8 million people in the state who'd identify themselves as birders. I bet every angler (aka, fisherman) in the survey would call themselves a fisherman/angler. I've spent day after day in the field, at good spots in the Puget Trough, without seeing a single another person with binoculars. I see far more people with fishing rods, and during hunting season, with guns. Where are these 1.8 million birders, Garfield County?

The question that led to folks being identified as birdwatchers by the survey (and again, I question how "serious" was determined) was something to the effect of, "Have you ever stopped to look at a bird?"

And again, I just appeal to one's common sense. If there are 1.8 million of us, where are we all? Especially if we apply the adjective "serious." The 1.8 million are not on Tweeters. Not part of WOS. Not part of the ABA. Invisible in practical terms. I guess you could label everyone with a bird feeder or who has looked at an eagle out there window "a birder," but that would not be comparable to those who identify themselves as hunters or fisherman. We need to compare apples to apples.

If we want to throw our weight around, which I believe in, we need to start with realistic numbers.

By the way, about 6 months or so ago, Dennis Paulson wrote a superb letter to the editor in Birding on just this topic.

Realistically Yours
Steven Mlodinow _______________________________________________
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