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The Beginners Guide to Backyard Birding: Discover the facts on the Long History of Birding

A Beautiful Male Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perches on a small branch at the Laguna SecaRanch
Texas Cardinal
A Male House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) perches on a small limb overlooking a Backyard bird feeder.
Backyard House Finch

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Birding is defined as the observation of birds in their natural habitat as a hobby, and the term "birder" is the name for an individual who enjoys this hobby in all of its many forms. You may be new to birding, but birding has been around for ages. Today, bird watching is a beloved hobby that focuses on connecting with nature while respecting the birds in their natural habitat. However, when people first began watching birds, this was not the case. Bird watching was not always in the best interest of the spectacular creatures being observed. Let’s take a short look at the history of this fascinating and rewarding hobby.

The early interest in observing birds for their beauty rather than as a source of food can be traced back to the late 18th century. The study of birds, in general, became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era (1837 to 1901). Unfortunately, the collection of data was often done with guns. The only way to identify an unfamiliar species was with a lifeless bird. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the call for the protection of birds began. This led to the rising popularity of observing living birds. In North America, observing birds in the wild gained popularity with 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 and in 1901, the phrase "bird watching" appeared for the first time as the title of a book, Bird Watching by Edmund Selous.

Today, bird watching is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in the United States. Based on a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 51.3 million Americans declared themselves as bird watchers. More and more people are taking up this hobby as a regular activity. But birding is more than just a hobby: according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, it is a huge part of who we are culturally, and birding as a hobby contributes significantly to our economy as well. Did you know...

1. 46.7 million Americans enjoy watching and feeding birds

2. $107 billion is spent on birdwatching equipment and travel in the U.S.

3. 666,000 jobs are created due to birdwatching.

4. $13 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue results from birdwatching.

5. 17.8 million Americans travel to see birds, putting millions into local economies.

Not bad for a bunch of binocular-wearing, field guide-toting, craned-neck, bird lovers, huh?

Birds are everywhere. There are over 800 species of birds in North America and it is very easy to spot at least 100 species in your neck of the woods. Bird watching is not only limited to a certain area such as the Texas Hill Country. This is something that can be done anywhere and the closest and most convenient of course is in your own backyard.

As a nature and wildlife photographer, the most common questions I receive are bird-related. What are the best food, natural habitats, and species identification, and how do I attract them to my little piece of the world? To help spread the love of nature, I have decided to start a blog series on birding. More precisely, Backyard Birding.

A Texas Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  takes a peanut from a backyard bird feeder
Nutty Blue Jay

Over the next couple of months, I will share useful tips to start you on the path of bird-watching. We will cover everything from how to get started, to making a simple water feature or fountain, suet recipes, and bird-friendly landscaping. There is no right or wrong way to perform the act of birding, however, there is a birder's code of ethics for birding (which we will cover in a future post).

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced birder, I hope you will join me on this adventure into Backyard Birding. I am excited to see what we can learn together. I want to hear from you and look forward to sharing your successes with each new bird and new experience!

Next up, we will discuss the many benefits of Backyard Birding. Not sure it’s for you? Read my next blog and I will make a believer out of you! In today’s crazy world, find some peace and beauty while never leaving the safety and comfort of your own home!

A male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) perches on a backyard tube feeder
Painted Bunting at Bird Feeder

If this is your first time visiting my website or reading one of my blog posts, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Please subscribe here so you can receive updates on the next blog posts on Backyard Birding. You will also receive occasional discounts and newsletters. Please share my blog and galleries with family and friends! Remember to follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and always strive to leave places better than you found them.

Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view


353 views2 comments


David Cutts
David Cutts
Jan 16, 2021

Thank you for the great comment Fay. I've never seen a Cardinal feed a cowbird chick. I have seen a sparrow feeding a cowbird chick though.


Fay Stout
Fay Stout
Jan 12, 2021

I love watching (and talking to) the birds, especially in my little backyard. Imagine my surprise the day I saw a baby cowbird being fed by a cardinal! I had never seen that before and that led me to do more reading about them! And I love feeding them too. Will look forward to reading more about birding in your blog and seeing your wonderful photos!

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