|People birdwatching on the Barrier Island area of Indian River County. |
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Friendship, companionship and sheer pleasure, these are some of the benefits to be gained from the hobby of Birdwatching or Birding. In this article, I review six key reasons why birdwatching fascinates around 70 million Americans and countless more people around the world.
Fitness and health. Birdwatching promotes health and fitness in a number of ways. First is t
he simple advantage of being outdoors and breathing fresh air. Secondly, getting to good sites for birdwatching often involves walking or hiking and hill climbing, all good for the heart, lungs, and circulation. Another significant plus point is exposure to sunlight. This promotes the production of vitamin D. Due to our modern lifestyle; many of us are deficient in this essential vitamin which helps strengthen teeth and bones. Sunlight has also been shown to combat depression and help protect against disease.
Companionship. The public image of birdwatching is that of a solitary birdwatcher spending the day in the field then returning home to a lonely supper. As with any hobby, there are some people like that - but not many of us. The majority of birdwatchers are friendly, convivial folk who love to go out birding with each other. There are popular birdwatching clubs in just about every part of the world. Companionship plays a central part in the attraction of birdwatching.
Pleasure from nature. Birding brings us back in touch with a more natural way of life, one that we can lose sight of in our urban homes. We are struck by the vitality of nature, the rhythm of the changing seasons and the beauty of the landscape. We can see and feel all of this firsthand, not via images on a TV screen.
Family. Many family members go birdwatching in pairs or larger groups. A father teaching his son or a grandfather showing his grandson the tricks to tracking down that rare bird. Or showing him the basics of identifying and naming our more common visitors. All of this goes to strengthen the bond between generations and knits families more closely together.
Finding that elusive bird. Wired into our genes, particularly those of men, is the desire to hunt. This gives us the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of finding our prey. Birdwatching is the civilized expression of these feelings. It provides us with the emotional charge while preserving, indeed prizing, life. It is no coincidence that many birdwatchers strongly support efforts to save the environment.
Friendship. Valuable friendships are made from striking up conversations with fellow birdwatchers. We already have our hobby in common so breaking the ice is much easier than with other people. Keeping in touch with news of sightings, our successes and failures and our plans all help to maintain and develop our birdwatching friendships.
In summary, there really are lots of positive reasons to be a birdwatcher. If you already are one, congratulations on being part of our family. If you are thinking about becoming a birdwatcher, you can start small. Observe your local birds; begin to identify them and their songs. Above all, start now - you'll find birdwatching to be an exciting and rewarding hobby.