Sunday, October 30, 2011

What is birding?

Birdwatching or birding is the observation of birds as a recreational activity. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are more readily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Most birdwatchers pursue this activity mainly for recreational or social reasons, unlike ornithologists, who engage in the study of birds using more formal scientific methods.
The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late-18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare.[6] Although the study of birds and natural history became fashionable in Britain during the Victorian Era, it was mainly collection oriented with eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.[7] The term "birdwatching" appeared for the first time as the title of a book "Bird Watching" by Edmund Selous in 1901.[8] In North America, the identification of birds, once thought possible only by shooting was made possible by the emergence of optics and field identification guides. The earliest field guide in the US was Birds through an Opera Glass (1889) by Florence Bailey.[9] Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson.
The organization and networking of those interested in birds began through organizations like the Audubon Society that was against the killing of birds and the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). The rising popularity of the car increased the mobility of birdwatchers and this made new locations accessible to those interested in birds.[10] Networks of birdwatchers in the UK began to form in the late 1930s under the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). The BTO saw the potential to produce scientific results through the networks, unlike the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which like the Audubon Society originated from the bird protection movement.[11] Like the AOU in North America, the BOU had a focus mainly in collection based taxonomy. The BOU changed focus to ecology and behaviour only in the 1940s.[12] The BTO movement towards 'organized birdwatching', was opposed by the RSPB which claimed that the 'scientification' of the pastime was 'undesirable'. This stand was to change only in 1936 when the RSPB was taken over by Tom Harrisson and others. Harrisson was instrumental in the organization of pioneering surveys of the Great Crested Grebe.[13]
Increased mobility of birdwatchers ensured that books like Where to watch birds by John Gooders became best-sellers.[14] By the 1960s air-travel became feasible and long distance holiday destinations opened up and by 1965, Britain's first birding tour company, Ornitholidays was started by Lawrence Holloway.[15] Travelling far away also led to problems in name usage, British birds like "Wheatear", "Heron" and "Swallow" needed adjectives to differentiate them in places where there were several related species.[16] 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.[17]
Initially, birdwatching was a hobby practised in developed countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, since the second half of the 20th century an increasing number of people in developing countries have engaged in this activity. Transnational birding has played an important role in this, as citizens from developing countries that engage in birdwatching usually develop this pastime due to influence of foreign cultures that already practise birding.[18]

Wikipedia contributors. "Birdwatching." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.