How Instagram is changing birdwatching

On the surface, birding can seem like an unbelievably low-tech pastime: All it requires is sitting outdoors and softly waiting for birds to show up.

However, the pastime is also visual, making Instagram an obvious option for birders wanting to catalog what they see. In fact, the medium has perhaps boosted birding’s popularity: #birding currently has over 314 k posts, #birdingphotography over 73 k, and #birdsofinstagram over a million on Instagram.

But despite such a rise in interest over the past few years, there is also reluctance among some longtime birders and naturalists to espouse Instagram and other social media. According Sharon Stiteler, also known asBirdchick, In the birding community, everyone is always talking aboutHow can we get other people to notification birds? ” And yet when posting photos to Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat come up, they bristle at the notion.

Part of this is because of tradition. Birding is a pastime that’s been around long enough for rules to be formed. And those that sidestep the “formal” way of get into birding( with volumes and expensive binoculars) often don’t know these rules.

For example, some younger “casual” birders may not maintain a “life list”the listing many birders maintain of every bird they’ve ever seenwhich, to the old guard, is a sign they are not taking birding seriously.

“Digital camera plus Internet help seems to me a prescription to create ‘eternal beginners, ‘ people that photograph a lot of birds and cannot ID them, ” says a commenter on Birding.com. “This kind of beginner get instant rewards from the photos even if s/ he has no idea what it is they photographed. No doubt an enjoyable activity involving birds, but is it birding? “

There is also a tradition of birders fulfilling up in person, and many worry that social media is eroding that community spirit. “Facebooks they are able to connect and share information instantly has hit the bird clubs upside the head, ” writes Greg Neise on North American Birding. “Memberships are down and fulfilling attendance is a mere darknes of what it was.”

It is this long-held idea that outdoorsmanship and technology are mutually exclusive that seems to be hindering the old-school birders from coming around to the new. “Many people 30 and over assume that technology and social media are the worst and prevent children from going outside, ” says Stiteler.

While that may have been true for children of the previous generationwhen alternatives topped out at either playing outside or sitting in front of a televisionthe mobile aspects of social media entails birders can identify birds, post on Instagram or Tumblr, and even keep track of a “life list, ” all from their phones. Birding may not seem the way it did 40 years ago, but it’s open to more people than ever.

For their component, amateur birders who have embraced Instagram aren’t trying to step on anyone’s toes. They are largely employing the service to note what they track in their region, whether thats Brazil, Alaska, Brooklyn, or Israel. And professional organizations like the National Audubon Society and the US Fish and Wildlife Service utilize Instagram to show the diversity of birds and their behaviors around the country.

Stiteler began birding pre-social media, as a child. But she found that blogging, podcasting, and apps like Instagram were a natural way to share her interests. She has been capturing birdlife in Minnesota and elsewhere on the medium for almost four years, and is always pleasantly astonished when she detects people have gotten into birding through her.

One of my absolute favorite places to go birding in the U.S. is the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and I always love it when Ill fulfill person at a bird celebration or theyll drop-off me a note saying they just went to the Rio Grande Valley for the first time, since they are watched my pictures on the Internet, she told the Daily Dot.


The same thing happened for the birder who goes by “Tripper.” With more than 1,300 followers, his Instagram @petersownbirds is becoming a popular place for local birders to see whats happening in Brooklyns Prospect Park.

Tripper joined Instagram in 2014, after get into birding through his wife, and has developed a deeper passion for it since. “I think my new exuberance pushed her to a new level of birding, so it’s been something that we do together, and we have learned a lot together, which has been great fun.”

When Tripper joined Instagram, he says he was just looking for places to learn. I wanted to see pictures, get better at identification, etc. Slowly, I learned that the people I most liked to follow were people like mebirders who employed Instagram to show what they were insuring around them.

Without a doubt, today’s bird of the day !!

A photo posted by @petersownbirds on Apr 10, 2016 at 3:56 pm PDT


Hobbyists have always employed whatever entails are available to connect with each other, but the public nature of Instagram means that people who werent necessarily looking for birding content can get caught up in the feeds. Which is important, says Stiteler, because of birdings nerdy reputation.

If the only birders youve considered dress like Jack Hannah and shush parkgoers who may have stumbled into a nesting region, birding may seem like an extreme fascination.

But on Instagram, wanting to showing pictures of the things you love is the whole point. A well-lit picture of a bird seems no different than one of your brunch. Its only another thing in the world to be interested in, that may inspire your followers to eat at a new restaurant, see a new play, or go to the park and find woodpeckers.

If Instagram is the catalyst driving the interest, the remainder are as follows, told Tripper.

Have you spotted any Osprey this year? Photo: Kurt Wecker/ Audubon Photography Awards

A photo posted by Audubon Society (@ audubonsociety) on Apr 7, 2016 at 6:04 pm PDT

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