Birders – A Flock of Fine Folks

Raise your hand if you know a birder. Raise your hand again if you can tell me what a birder is. Just as I thought – lots of hands for the first question – fewer for the second. For those of you that know what a birder is, I suspect that the most common answer is – “my friend that keeps a list of all the birds that they have ever seen.” Correct, but only partially so, because these fine folks are so much more.

Merriam-Webster defines a birder as “a catcher or hunter of birds especially for market,” or “a person who birds.” The first definition is rooted in the 15th century, which fits those times. Today’s birders are those that not only look but also document what they observe (the list). Bird watchers, like myself, enjoy seeing birds but are not keen to keep a list.

But let me tell you who these people really are. They are some of the most passionate and caring people that I know. They love birds and the habitats that support them. They are consummate recorders of what they see. They include some of the best birders in this country. But most importantly, they love and support one another and love to share what they know with others.

I was reminded of these latter traits recently when I asked for advise on where to see Purple Martins this time of year. Their response was swift and included detailed recollections of when and where to best see these birds.

But it was the sense of excitement around the telling of their stories that stood out. They called out and thanked each other for sharing the experiences. Some of these folks have birded together for years, and yet are still learning from one another. This is as much a definition of community as any.

These birders are members of the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society, and you can learn much about birds from them through the upcoming field trip season, starting in September. You will enjoy their company, as I do, and may even one day become a birder.

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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