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    26 Facts About Birdwatching That Will Give You Something To Crow About (Sorry)

    There is an alternate map for Central Park in New York City that names specific trees, bushes, fields, and benches that only birders use. Maybe the Magic Bush is truly magical?

    My kid (15) and my husband are both obsessed with birds.

    I have driven and flown them places to look at birds for many years. I have only remained sane by keeping a mental list of weird but fascinating things about this hobby, and I am ready to share them with you!

    1. First, please don't say "birdwatching."

    Birders go birding, and die a little inside when non-birders call it "birdwatching." I only put "birdwatching" in the title because my editor said people wouldn't understand it otherwise.

    Steve Martin says "It's called birding, Rick" in The Big Year

    2. Birders are never defeated by lack of sleep.

    3. When an unusual bird is spotted, or a common bird is spotted in an unusual place, the birders come out in DROVES.

    4. Like when a Steller's sea eagle, normally seen in Asia, got lost and ended up in Maine in late 2021, more than 2,000 people traveled to Maine and Massachusetts to see her.

    Birders watch a Steller's sea eagle in Georgetown, Maine on Friday, December 31, 2021.
    Steller's sea eagle flying over the water.

    5. When American woodcocks showed up in Bryant Park in NYC for a few weeks in spring 2022, swarms of birders showed up, but I get that, because LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE DANCE

    6. You may think that New York City, a concrete metropolis, is not good for birding, but it is, in fact, a world-class birding destination. Over 200 bird species can be spotted in Central Park alone, as it is a prime rest stop along the Atlantic bird migration route.

    Spring migration is a frenzy-birds in a hurry northbound in big pushes to stake out territory to breed. Fall migration has a different energy-calmer, quieter, more spread out. Lovely to see the return of this Wood Thrush to Central Park. Welcome back dear friend&safe travels. 🥰

    Twitter: @Lucent508 (Gloria)

    7. NYC birders have special names for dozens of different spots in Central Park that only birders know, basically a SECRET CODE for communicating bird locations. Like the Magic Bush.

    Magic Bush is back in action. Cap May warbler flitting around and snagged a bug as well. #birdcpp #NaturePhotography #birdphotography

    Twitter: @sureshsubra1 (Suresh Subramanian)

    The bush in question is a Cotoneaster plant around West 85th Street, and the bird is a Cape May warbler.

    8. And the Compost Heap.

    Third try is a charm. Lark Sparrow at the compost heap @CentralParkNYC #birdcpp #BirdsSeenIn2022 #birdwatching #birding #BirdTwitter #urbanbirding #fallmigration @inaturalist #BirdsofNYC #fallmigrants #sparrow #larksparrow

    Twitter: @mitoGFP

    Yes, my kid and husband immediately decamped to the Compost Heap to find the lark sparrow, usually only seen in the western US.

    And there's the Captain's Bench and Maintenance Meadow and the Oven and dozens of other names for very specific locations not on any official maps. However, there is a helpful Google Maps overlay for Central Park birders.

    9. The birding community is super friendly, locating birds for others (e.g. search #birdcp on Twitter for Central Park alerts) and helping to ID them, too.

    So fitting that birders use the bird app. Other key apps are Merlin for ID'ing birds and eBird for logging your sightings and seeing others' sightings, both made by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. On eBird, you can compile your life list, or all the different species you've seen in your life, as well as year list, county list, etc. Young birders hang out on Discord.

    10. Like any community, there are RULES. For example, do not post locations of owls on Twitter when you see them, lest they be disturbed by swarms of onlookers.

    Instead of sharing same-day owl pics on Twitter and other social media sites, please consider sharing information about owl etiquette instead.

    Twitter: @michelletalich

    eBird has special rules for whether, when, and how they display location information for sensitive species.

    11. But owls are majestic creatures, and birders will not be deterred.

    I just can’t help myself: I seem to have taken another award winning photograph. (People waiting to see the rare snowy owl in Central Park.)

    Twitter: @SteveMartinToGo

    Every once in a long while, an "irruption" of snowy owls brings them in big numbers to unusual places.

    And if you're wondering why Steve Martin is tweeting about birding, check him out in the movie The Big Year, a hilarious bromance wherein Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson play three obsessed birders competing for the honor of having seen the most birds in a calendar year.

    12. Birding became so popular during the pandemic that it is often easier to spot the birds by first spotting the birders.

    Next level birding today! joining the crowds for a look at a wayward painted bunting. #newBirders #birding #paintedBunting #greatFallsNP

    Twitter: @huzwifeoutside

    Would that be called "birdering"?

    13. And like any community, there are FACTIONS. Birders are nature-loving, chill people who stand in one spot for 30 minutes at a time, but they can still have passionate disagreements. One is about digital playback, or whether you should play bird calls on your phone to lure them to you.

    Good morning!!! Handsome vs Handsome! 😍 I'm at Turtle Pond in Central Park&2 Male Wood Ducks, the original hot duck are here: one w/a black beak&one w/a red beak. Both are sleeping now, don't be like Birding Bob&blast calls at them to agitate them wake them up for no reason.

    Twitter: @Lucent508 (Gloria)

    The feuding on Twitter was intense. My kid is firmly in the "no calls" camp, as it potentially distracts birds from more important chores (looking for food, mates, nesting materials, etc.) and it detracts from the fun of looking for birds. My husband sees both sides, as in most cases, the effect on birds is probably not significant. I do not get involved.

    14. But all in all, birders are a peaceful bunch, just trying to look at and identify birds. Which requires a LOT of knowledge.

    15. C'mon, warblers basically all look the same. I mean, at least 20 of them have gray wings and a yellow breast. Plus, they are tiny, sit high up in the trees, and fly around very quickly.

    16. No, these are not all the same kind of warbler.

    Is it just me or are these reCAPTCHAs getting way harder? 😅 #birds #birding #birdwatching #BirdTwitter #warbler

    Twitter: @CosmicBirdsNFT

    17. Some bird names are extremely unhelpful. Red-bellied woodpeckers clearly have a WHITE belly.

    A red-bellied woodpecker

    18. Seemingly helpful names like "seagull" should never be spoken.

    19. Even experienced birders have a hard time identifying gulls.

    Gulls identification is tricky: Many species are similar and the plumage changes pretty dramatically over the first few years of bird’s life: Here’s some help via @JohnMuirLaws

    Twitter: @IntBirdRescue

    But you can always discern the boobies on the beach (hehe).

    20. Now, you may be inspired and want to go on a trip with a birder, but be warned: They get up at dawn and prefer total silence when birding.

    21. They are singularly obsessed. They bird while watching TV.

    Apparently, Pileated Woodpeckers exist in Qarth (in Essos). (listen for the bird call about 7 seconds in) #GameofThrones #PileatedWoodpecker

    Twitter: @jchybow

    If you, like me, had to rewatch countless Game of Thrones scenes to identify bird calls in the background, check out this handy guide.

    22. Birders get annoyed when they hear the "call" of a bald eagle on a show because movie makers use the majestic call of a red-tailed hawk instead. Bald eagles sound like squeaky seagulls.

    The "eagle cry" you think of from movies and TV is not made by an eagle at all! It's a red tailed hawk cry 99% of the time!

    Kari Fry Twitter: @CaitCorrain / Photoguide

    Lol there is no such thing as a seagull.

    23. They bird while playing word games.

    BRDL word game

    24. They bird before they even leave the house.

    25. But birders' passion is infectious!

    26. So, if you have excellent vision, infinite patience, copious sunscreen, and $150 to spend on a pair of binoculars, go forth and bird!

    My kid uses this pair of binoculars for $145 which is light and versatile. My husband prefers this pair of binoculars for $225. Have fun!