Birds have long delighted people all over the world because of their beauty and their power of flight. Birds are everywhere, and everywhere they are different. Birds are mysterious, beautiful, and sometimes wonderfully elusive.
Historically, they used to be considered omens. The ancient Romans believed that the flights and calls of birds could foretell the future.
Today, modern science still uses birds as a kind of oracle. Changes in bird populations can reflect the health of the environment.
Birding also fulfills another basic instinct—the quest for knowledge. Birding is about acquiring knowledge. Not just about birds’ names, but also about their songs, their behavior, and how they relate to the rest of nature. It’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy a unique human pleasure—the successful exercise of lore.
In fact, amateur birders often get to make real contributions to scientific knowledge. Today, much of what ornithology knows about birds has come from the observations of ordinary but dedicated birders.
Some birds are indicator species, like the USA’s national bird, the bald eagle. They forecast environmental conditions. The knowledge of birds can help us plan a better, more sustainable relationship with nature.
Maybe we watch birds because they are accessible: wherever we go, birds are there, usually active while we are active, sleeping while we sleep. In our own backyards, we lure them with birdfeeders and birdhouses, and by placing shrubs, water, and appropriate plants in the landscape. More than any creature except perhaps insects, birds visibly share our outdoor space, and if we have to travel miles and sit quietly for patient hours in order to see a rare or elusive bird, that makes it a treasure hunt.
We love treasure hunts and we love novelty. Birds provide both. While many birds have very wide ranges, the birds of one country tend to differ from the birds of another; even if you find the birds at home rather ordinary, you will be thrilled by unfamiliar birds when you travel. You will see the same type of bird in varied locations, but the birds will be different.
Birds are beautiful. Their brilliant hues offer a companion to their color vision. Birds flash past in every shade from emerald to vermillion, beautiful as showy flower blossoms but usually more surprising. An endless variety of patterns, shapes, and sizes delight us. Even the common crow has a lovely sheen and certain elegance. Yes, birds are an awesome part of life – how could we not watch birds?
Bird watching is FUN! It gives you a great excuse to leave your television behind and venture out into the elements. Need a good reason to head out and go for a walk? Bring along your binoculars. It provides a healthy activity that just about anyone can enjoy. You don’t need good knees like skiing. You don’t even need to be able to venture beyond your own back yard. Bird feeders placed on window sills allow individuals with limited to enjoy birds with little or no effort.
Birding is also the ideal solitary sport. There’s a special pleasure in going out alone to bird. Your mind settles down. Your senses open up, and all nature seems to become your friend. Birding is a sport of many moods, and it serves the causes of companionship and solitude equally well.
Be warned, however, Birding can be addictive. You may find yourself obsessed with some rare species that may have been reported locally. You find yourself getting up earlier and earlier to put in a few hours of birding before work. You begin looking at your landscaping in a whole new way as you start planting more bird friendly plants, installing feeders and bird baths and reducing the use of harmful chemicals.
As we’ve said, birds can be fascinating creatures. If you’ve never watched them before, just try for a few moments in the early morning light. Look at how they soar through the air. Listen to their morning songs. You can find great peace and great enlightenment in birds. How would you be able to truly enjoy these creatures unless you watched them? It’s time to get started in bird watching!