Bird watching, also called birding, is a recreational pastime that involves observing wild birds in their native habitat. People at all levels of fitness and ornithological knowledge can be birders, and many regions have thriving societies that sponsor trips and educational lectures. There are a number of reasons to participate in this activity, but most birders say that they simply enjoy the opportunity to go outside, learn about nature, and spend time with people who have like interests.
Humans have been identifying and observing birds for centuries in an attempt to become more knowledgeable about the natural world. Modern birders restrict their identifications to photographs and drawings, but in former centuries, birders also shot and mounted the birds that they identified in the wild. One of the most famous bird watchers, John Jacob Audubon, killed hundreds of birds, including many new species, and brought them back to life in vivid and unique drawings which were published in 1840 to great public acclaim.
In honor of Audubon, and in recognition of the immense contribution he made to the identification and description of American bird species, the Audubon Society was founded in the early 1900s. It helps to preserve bird species, educate the public about birds, and further scientific advancement in the field or ornithology. Today, the Audubon Society has many active local chapters which host regular birding trips, and plays a crucial role in conservation of habitat for threatened and endangered species.
On a bird watching trip, the birders will typically carry birding binoculars and bird guides to assist with spotting and identifying species. Although many birders are very knowledgeable, a bird guide confirms an identification, and assists birders who are traveling in unfamiliar territory. Many birders also carry a life list, a document that allows them to keep track of every bird they have ever spotted. Other equipment typically includes heavy boots for dealing with varied territory and layered clothing to cope with changeable weather.
Many locally based bird watching groups welcome new members, and love educating people new to ornithology. People who are interested in taking up this activity can contact a local chapter to get more information about it, and established birders can incorporate the pastime into their trips and vacations by getting in touch with bird groups at their destinations. Some travel agencies also offer bird watching trips, targeted at people who are interested in exploring nature and acquiring new species for their life lists.