Why do we watch birds?


By Robb Clifford

Darke Co. Parks

Why do we birdwatch? Why is it that “birding” is the number one spectator sport in the world? Is it merely the colors and bird song that draws us to this activity or is there something more? I, for one, know that when I go birding, I feel a connection to the natural world that is hard to match. I marvel at how varied each species of bird is and how each one has found that perfect niche that allows it to thrive amongst the many other species found in the same tree. I’m fascinated at how most birds will build a brand-new nest every spring, use it for a few short weeks, and do it all over again… all with just a beak to work with. Many of you out there likely have similar reasons for liking to watch the birds. Sure, the colors are fantastic, and the songs are quite musical, but I don’t think that is all that draws people to this activity.

There are all manners of “birders”. Some simply glance out at the bird feeder from time to time. There are the “Listers”, who travel far and wide to mark a bird off their list, either for the day, the year, or that location, etc. Some Globe-trotters travel far and wide with the sole purpose of seeing new and amazing bird species. And there are the rest of us. Those that may not travel all that far or who don’t always get up early enough for the dawn chorus, but we get there eventually! All of the above (and the many other varieties I have failed to mention) make up the world of Birders. Just like a forest wouldn’t be complete without its wide variety of bird species, bird-watching wouldn’t be complete without the different kinds of birders. But why do we do it at all? And why do so many people enjoy it over so many other options in our ever-busy world?

As I mentioned before, when I bird, I feel as though I can truly connect with nature and have an excuse to mentally disconnect from the hullaballoo of modern life to just “be”. Birding requires walking slowly or quietly sitting by the window. This allows for so much more to happen and take place around us that we miss in our busy day-to-day lives. A bird hike may only cover a fraction of the miles that a general hike might. Sitting at the window watching the bird feeder and waiting for the birds to return may yield views of much more than just birds. See that small chipmunk sneaking seed from below the feeder? See the butterfly using the bird bath for a drink? All of these would have been missed had time not been set aside to birdwatch.

Why do we bird? Sure, one can spend a small fortune on this hobby. And, as many are aware, birdseed and feeders aren’t that cheap either. While the startling blue of a Cerulean Warbler or the crimson red of a Scarlet Tanager is fantastic, so are the iridescence of the European Starling or the rich browns of the House Sparrow. No, there is something more than just amazing color and a pretty sound. We are connected to these creatures in some manner, both known and unknown to us, and their ability to allow us to just “be” is the best reward of all.

Spring migration is on the move. The Red-winged Blackbirds have returned, as have the waterfowl, and soon we’ll see the return of the brightly colored songbirds. As the weather warms and the daylight grows longer, make time to get out there and go for a slow bird walk; sit by the bird feeder for an hour; spend some time and get to know those “horrible” starlings and sparrows… you might just be surprised by what else you discover.

For information about the Darke County Parks, visit www.darkecountyparks.org or call the Nature Center at 937-548-0165.

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