THE 2016 NATIONAL SURVE Y of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated
Recreation carried out by the United States Fish and Wildlife Survey provides some
interesting information about birdwatchers. It records the total number of people who
observe birds as more than forty-five million, most of whom merely watch birds around
the home, but sixteen million are more active, taking trips away from home to observe or
photograph birds. This means that one out of every twenty of us is an active birdwatcher.
Those numbers have additional significance when they are compared with the thirty-
six million Americans who fish and 11. 5 million who hunt. It is also of interest to note that
wildlife watching in general appears to increase among retired Americans.
Conclusion: people enjoy watching birds. Perhaps they are onto something and you
should consider joining them.
There is, of course, an aesthetic appeal to observing these remarkable feathered
animals, many of them beautifully plumaged as well. But there is another aspect to
birdwatching that draws many to the avocation: I call it the sport of birdwatching.
Most of us love competition. We root for our favorite sports teams and we compete in
games like bridge and chess. Many of us
also compete against ourselves: we seek to
increase the number of states or national
parks we have visited, how many push-ups
we can do, or how many mountains we
For most beginning birders, there is
competition from the very beginning.
Almost all birdwatchers keep lists and
the basic one is how many species they
have seen and/or heard in all their birding.
(Purists record only birds they have seen.)
This so-called life list includes birds
identified by others and pointed out to
the list-keepers. Initiating and keeping
such a list is great fun, especially at first
when the numbers mount quickly.
That life list is easy to start. Before you
leave home for active watching, it already
includes a half-dozen or more birds. You
surely know species like robin, crow,
pigeon, and Canada goose. And if you
have maintained or visited a bird feeder
you know chickadee, downy woodpecker,
white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, and
Now it’s time to join a birding outing
at Tifft Nature Preserve or the Audubon
Society’s Beaver Meadow refuge or one
led by a Buffalo Ornithological Society
member. These trips can add forty or fifty
species to your list. Most beginners who
participate in a few field trips end their
first year with a life list of over a hundred
In accumulating that number,
beginners should not feel that they are
inconveniencing the experienced birders
who help by pointing out “lifers”—birds
the new watcher has never seen before.
Most are delighted to contribute and share
in the fun. For them, adding a new lifer
is far harder, and your achievement gives
them vicarious pleasure.
BY GERRY RISING
FOR AESTHETICS, FUN, AND THE THRILL OF VICTORY
PREFERRED BIRDING SPOTS
Here are some regional sites experienced birdwatchers often visit. For waterfowl: the shores of the
Niagara River and Lakes Erie and Ontario. For land birds: Tifft, Reinstein Woods, and Beaver Meadow
Nature Preserves; Amherst, Beaver Island, Buckhorn, Golden Hill, Wilson-Tuscarora, and Woodlawn
State Parks; Goat Island (in Niagara Falls State Park); Chestnut Ridge and Bond Lake Parks; and Tillman
Road Wildlife Management Area.
The Buffalo Ornithological Society and the Buffalo Audubon Society maintain websites from which
you can obtain information about meetings and field trips. The mailing list GeneseeBirds-L gives much
up-to-date information. Dave Suggs’ phone-in resource, Dial-a-Bird (716-896-1271) provides current
and very specific information about where to find uncommon birds.