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Comparison: Birders versus Bird Watchers

A Black & White Warbler.

I must clarify something. I am not a Birder – I am just a Bird Watcher! What’s the difference?

Birders normally go searching for birds and drive or fly to enigmatic places in order to find a new species.  They are often driven by their life-list, their tracking of every species they have seen or heard.  Most birders know bird anatomy, behaviour, habitat and species’ songs! Although there are a number of people who have lists of in access of 6,000 individual species seen during their life-time, the longest list at the moment is 9,414 species.  Not a bad list given there are about 10,400 species living in the world.

One person I know of was birding in the north of Scotland when he received a phone call from a friend informing him of a sighting of a very rare species only found in Antarctica which had made an appearance in California.  Within a matter of hours, he had returned to London and caught a flight to California to document the sighting.  Now he is a “Birder”!

“Bird watchers, on the other hand enjoy watching birds in their yards, nearby parks and woods.  They may also have a fair understanding of bird biology, but not to the same extent as a birder.”

One of the critical attributes of a birder is to be able to identify birds by their song, possibly without seeing the bird.  It is known as “birding by ear”.

This is where I fail miserably.  You see, there are many species of bird I have not been able to hear for many years.  Some I have never heard except on a recording.  For some time my ENT has been telling me that I am a good candidate for hearing aids.  My wife has been echoing that, almost daily for a long time.

Friends of mine wear hearing aids, and they all sing their praises!  On a field trip to Rondeau Park this past spring with members of the Orillia Naturalist Club, I walked a trail with a lady friend and her husband.  I made a comment about not being able to hear most warblers.  She stopped in her track and faced me (I suppose she wanted to make sure that I heard her or was able to read her lips). Then she began to tell me her story of having recently started wearing hearing aids.  I had no idea she used them!  She related how now she hears all the birds.

I was at last convinced, and on my return home, made an appointment to see a hearing aid professional.

Well, they are no match for great natural hearing, even though they have been set up by computer to fit my needs.  I can change programs for various conditions with the touch of a remote.  However, “Mumblers” at meetings still mumble, only louder! And Grandmother’s clock sure ticks loudly!

I am now very excited about the coming spring.  Just maybe now I will be able to ear the very high frequency calls of most of those little warblers high in the canopy I have been missing, and not dependant on my wife to tell me.”… there is an American Redstart in that tree”.

Who knows, I may at last become a “Birder”!

For chances to go birding or bird watching, keep an eye on our events calendar!

David A. Homer is member of the Board of Directors and a volunteer at The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protecting nature for future generations. To learn about the properties that we help to protect, please visit our website: www.couchichingconserv.ca