Birdwatching, or birding, is the observation of birds as a recreational activity. That being said, there are all kinds of levels of involvement in this activity. Some will make a distinction between the two terms saying that birding is a more ‘serious’ activity than birdwatching. Birdwatching is also good for the economy and the environment (in general).
Some countries – small countries in Europe for example – have an activity called ‘twitching‘. It is a British term whereby a person will try to find a rarely observed bird, often traveling long distances. Ornithology is the scientific study of birds.
Monitoring the birds involves the counting of species and birds within species as a means of assessing the health of bird populations. Many research centers have dedicated resources to maintain records of bird populations through the years. This helps decide whether to protect a bird by giving it a special status such as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’, etc., which then allows the allocation of funds for conservation.
Parts of this monitoring are the ‘bird counting‘ activities at different times of the year, for example the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count, and also the Bennett Birding Classic. In PEI birdwatchers can report their observations on a special mailing list distributed to participating members.
Another counting activity is the Big Year, a competition in North America among birders where the goal is for participants to identify as many species of birds as possible within a given time. A comedy, The Big Year, was made about this activity.
Birding Code of Conduct: A code of ethics or conduct has been established in the birding community to allow responsible bird watching without impacting the birds and their environment, for example by not approaching nesting birds too closely, and respecting all laws and private property. The Prince Edward Island Field Checklist of Birds has a list of five recommendations for bird-watching etiquette, which are specific to this Canadian province.
Or course to observe birds one has to have some equipment, such as binoculars and telescopes. Bird cams are becoming very popular too. Here’s a website dedicated to the observation of nesting birds via web cams: http://www.viewbirds.com. This particular hatching of bald eagle eggs has been viewed millions of times apparently. One such web cam in PEI can be seen on the Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group website.
Bird photography can be a professional or amateur activity. Feeding the birds is a good way of attracting birds close enough to be able to photograph them. It is important to have a zoom and a tripod for good bird photographs. The photographers below were patiently waiting for the first Japanese tit appearance in March. This bird is similar (in appearance) to the black-capped chickadee.