Bird watching is also called birding. The first term birding was used for the practice of fowling or hunting with firearms. More and more people are travelling long distances to spot rare species of birds, these people are called twitchers. The goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one’s lists.
Some bird watchers look at bird watching as a healthy competition. They aim to get or accumulate the longest species list. The act of pursuing a rare specie is called “twitch” or a “chase”.
Showing interest in observing birds can be traced back as early as 1700s in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare. During the Victorian Era, it was fashionable in Britain to collect eggs and later skins for artefacts of interest. To obtain rare specimens, wealthy collectors have contacts in colonies that will move and collect for them.
But the collection and collectors went to far. In 1800, bird hats were all the rage. Harriet Hemenway tok the lead in fighting the millinery trade or feather industry. She went on to shut down the interstate bird skin trade, she founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
Rosalie Edge, another hero, bought Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania then turned it into the first sanctuary for birds of prey, which were otherwise being slaughtered. Florence Merriam wrote a guide for newbies. This served as the early field guide fir bird watching which was incomprehensible for the average hobbyist like them.
It was only in the late 1800s that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect the birds from the growing trade. The term bird watching first read in the title of the book “Bird Watching” by Edmund Selous in 1901. The earliest field guide in the United States was Birds Through and Opera Glass By Florence Bailey.
Early and until mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, they were influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson.
The rising popularity and use of cars increased the mobility of birdwatchers. The rising popularity of the car increased the mobility of birdwatchers and this made new locations accessible to those interested in birds. Networks of birdwatchers in the UK began to form in the late 1930s under the British Trust for Ornithology. The BTO saw the potential to produce scientific results through the networks, unlike the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB) which like the Audubon Society originated from the bird protection movement.
The falling cost of air-travel made flying to remote birding destinations a possibility for a large number of people towards the 1980s. The need for global guides to birds became more relevant and one of the biggest projects that began was the “Handbook of the Birds of the World” which started in the 1990s with Josep del Hoyo a country doctor in Catalonia, Jordi Sargatal and ornithologist Andy Elliott.
Right now, there are about 80 million Americans into bird watching. More and more people are still showing interest in taking part of this recreational activity. Its rich history and culture, paves how big this outdoor sport has contributed to the culture and natural history. Through all the years, one thing still remain.
The love for nature and the how history proved that people can make a stand for the environment.