What exactly is bird watching? If you go walking through the forest and spy a bird, are you bird watching? Do you have to be knowledgeable in the study of birds before you are considered a bird watcher? Bird watching or birding is basically defined as the observation and study of birds with the naked eye or through a visual enhancement device like binoculars. Though some may disagree, bird watching and birding is essentially the same thing, both are the observation of birds in the wild.
In the birding community though, there is some disagreement about grouping the two terms into the same category. Many deem bird watching to be different than birding on quite a few levels. They feel that mere bird watchers deem it more as a past time and don’t pursue it with the same enthusiasm as a birder. It is felt that bird watchers are more content to observe more locally and don’t invest in the same grade of equipment as that of a birder. In short, birders don’t tend to rank themselves in the same category as bird watchers.
Birders feel this way because they tend to invest in higher technology equipment and are dedicated to study birds for more than general observation. Many birders will purchase optical equipment such as spotting scopes. They may even invest in auditory equipment in order to identify the species by year. They take note in moult, distribution, migration patterns, and habitat. Birders are also more prone to travel in order to pursue their passion of birds. It’s basically the same sport; one group just takes it a notch higher than others.