Is Birdwatching a Good Hobby? 17 Powerful Benefits of Birding

Why Birding Is Good for You

Hobbies have many benefits that can transform your life in a big way. Ideally, you want to have a hobby or set of hobbies that can impact as many areas of your life as possible (financial, social, health, etc).

But how many hobbies do you need to do this?

Often, one hobby is not sufficient to meet all your needs, so you need to do some form of hobby stacking (I go into detail in my article on the 20 Types of Hobbies Everyone Should Have).

However, with our busy schedules, you might have time for only one or two hobbies. This means that you have to be strategic in the hobbies you choose so that you can maximize the benefits.

So, which hobby can impact almost all areas of your life? One hobby to meet all needs?

In this article, I want to make the case for why birdwatching is the ultimate hobby. I have been birding for over 20 years and it has brought a lot of joy into my life.

Birding is probably not the first hobby that comes to mind when you think of an ultimate hobby, but it hits the ball out of the park when it comes to impacting multiple areas of your life.

For example, birding can help you to be healthy, make friends, bond with your family, create lasting memories, have a great career, and make a positive impact on society.

In this article, I will discuss the various ways that birdwatching can impact your life.

If you are struggling to find a hobby, I suggest that you also read the following articles:

Here are the main benefits of birdwatching

1. Birding is great for improving mental health

Several studies have found that being out in nature, watching birds, and listening to their calls can lead to long-lasting improvement in mental well-being. [1],[2],[3]

Birding helps to improve mental health in several ways.

  • Exposure to sunlight. Sunlight stimulates increased production of the hormone serotonin, which helps stabilize mood. [4] This is especially important during seasons when sunlight is limited.
  • Encouraging mindfulness. When birding, all your attention is focused on the task at hand, leaving little room for intrusive thoughts.
  • Exposure to green spaces. Spending time outdoors in nature and green spaces can be relaxing and calming. Nature also induces a sense of awe and appreciation, which can help you deal with anxiety and stress. [5]

If you are chronically stressed and anxious, birding can be a cheap and effective way to find relief.

2. Birding can help you get to fit and healthy

Birding helps you to leverage all the health benefits of walking outdoors. A typical bird walk lasts about 1 to 2 hours; this is plenty of time to get in your 10,000 steps.

There is plenty of research that shows how walking outdoors (and by extension, birding) can be beneficial to your health. [6],[7]

Here are a few examples.

  • Reducing weight and fighting obesity.
  • Strengthening bones and muscles.
  • Improving blood flow and circulation.
  • Reducing the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
  • Improving lung capacity.

Birding is not strenuous and can be done by people of all ages and fitness. If you are a senior, birding can help you to keep active into your sixties and seventies.

3. Birding can help you to get smarter

Birding benefits the brain in various ways, such as improving neural plasticity and slowing cognitive decline. [8]

Birding helps you to get smarter by:

  • Improving memory. Identifying birds requires that you memorize and recall bird calls as well as a host of bird features. Researchers from the Rotman Institute found that birders have better memory control and mental organization. [8]
  • Getting you to walk. Research shows that walking increases brain volume in certain areas involved in problem-solving and reasoning (such as the frontal lobe). [9] Walking is also great for improving circulation to various parts of the body, including the brain.
  • Exposing you to new skills. When you get into birding, you can learn a variety of new skills, such as photography, photo editing, sound editing, and using apps to submit records.

So, if you want to get smarter, get your binoculars and give your brain a workout.

4. Birding is an easy hobby to get into

Birding has a low barrier to entry. All you need is a decent pair of binoculars and a birding book or app. You can start birding in your backyard or your local park.

Also, you don’t need any skills or special training. If you have friends who are birders or if you join a birding club, you will learn all about birding for free.

Here are the basic things you need to get started with birding.

  • A decent pair of binoculars. 8X42mm or 10X42mm binoculars are ideal for birding. You can get a decent pair for less than $200. A good budget binoculars for birding is the Celestron Nature Binoculars.
  • A field guide. If you are in the United States, Peterson, and Sibley guides are popular.
  • A Birding app. Cornell University has a free app called Merlin that you can use to id photos and calls. It’s a must-have for a birder.

If you are cash-strapped, you can get a used pair of binoculars on eBay or Craigslist. As you get better at birding, you can invest in more advanced equipment like spotting scopes, recording microphones, and cameras.

5. Birding is a great gateway hobby

Birding is compatible with several hobbies and can be done concurrently with them. This makes birding a great ‘gateway hobby’, meaning it will be easy for you to get into other related hobbies if you are a birder.

Here are a few examples of hobbies that are compatible with birdwatching.

  1. Photography. Bird photography is an essential part of bird identification and, therefore, important for birding.
  2. Sketching. Learning how to quickly and accurately sketch birds is a valuable skill for bird identification.
  3. Gardening. If you want to attract birds to your backyard, you need to know which flowers, trees, and shrubs to plant.
  4. Camping. Camping allows you to bird affordably in areas not close to your home.

6. Birding helps you to learn new skills and technologies

If you enjoy learning new skills and working with cool gadgets, birding can be a gateway hobby for this. And some of these skills can be quite valuable.

Examples of skills and technologies that you can learn through birding include:

  • Learning how to use cool gear like binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, telephoto lenses, trail cameras, and recording microphones.
  • Learning how to software like birding apps and photo/video editing software.
  • You can learn how to make your own trail cameras using Raspberry Pi to monitor your bird feeders or nest boxes.
  • You can learn to code in Python and use Artificial Intelligence libraries like Tensorflow to make your own bird identification tools.

These are just a few examples of what you can learn through birding. If you do a bit of research, you will come up with many other tech projects you can do.

7. Birding can help you get a career you will love

If you have a passion for birding and are willing to build up your skills, you can get into some unique careers. Here are some examples of bird-related careers (with expected salaries in the US) [10].

  • Ornithologist. Ornithologists carry out bird research, and they make about $64,000 per year. Depending on where you are, you may need a college degree or even an advanced degree.
  • Bird guide. You can take people to popular birding spots in your area. You don’t need a college degree, but you may need some certifications. You can make roughly $34,000 a year.
  • Avian Veterinarian. You can work as an avian vet or vet assistant. You will require a college degree for this. As a vet, you can make about $128,000 a year.

You can also get into other complementary nature-based careers. For example, you can become a forester, game warden, bird strike specialist, habitat restoration scientist, and nature journalist.

8. Birding can help you to make money

There is a lot of money in birding. For example, the ornithology tourism market was valued at $57.9 billion in 2022. This is estimated to grow to $100 billion by 2032.[11]

If you can successfully tap into this market, you can make a decent living from your passion for birding. And you don’t need to get employed to do this.

Here are some ideas for making money from birding.

  • Create and sell bird-related merchandise. These include t-shirts, toys, bird feeders, and bird food.
  • Bird content creation. You can start a birding blog, YouTube channel, or social media pages to share your love for birds.
  • Bird tourism. You can start a bird tour company, bird sanctuary, or birding resort.

Blogging is an easy way to make money from your interest in birds. Write content about birds and monetize through ads, affiliate programs, or selling your own programs and services. For more, see my articles on How to Get Into Blogging As A Hobby and How to Start a Blog from Scratch.

9. Birding is a family-friendly hobby

Birding is a family-friendly hobby that everyone in the family can enjoy. This means that parents can bond with their kids, and grandparents can bond with their grandkids.

Birding is good for families because:

  • It is an excuse for the whole family to come together and do something healthy and fun.
  • You can do other activities after birding. For example, you can have a nice family lunch after a morning birding session.
  • Birding is great for helping kids to develop a greater appreciation of nature and a love for the outdoors. This is much better than being stuck indoors watching TV.

This is a big deal because it is not easy finding a hobby that is fun, healthy, and ideal for the whole family.

10. Birding is great if you love traveling

You can find birds in every country and continent. If you enjoy traveling, birding gives you the perfect excuse to travel and see the world. Also, birds are found in some of the most beautiful and remote places that the average tourist hardly visits.

Birding tourism (or avitourism) is already well established, and most tour companies have packages, guides, and infrastructure for it. So, if you want to make your life interesting, make it a goal to see all the 10,000 bird species found in the world (or as many as you can!).

Some of the countries that are great for birding include Peru (with 1,838 bird species), Kenya (for the flamingo spectacles at the Rift Valley Lakes), and Papua New Guinea (for the birds of paradise).

Other countries with large numbers of bird species include: [12]

  • Colombia (1,959 sp.)
  • Brazil (1,847 sp.)
  • Peru (1,838 sp.)
  • Indonesia (1,761 sp.)
  • Ecuador(1,690 sp.)

11. Birding can be done outdoors and indoors

While birding is mostly done outdoors, there are many bird-related activities that can keep you busy indoors when you don’t want to go out, or the weather is bad.

  • Editing and identifying your bird photos and calls.
  • Updating your birding records.
  • Researching about birds you have seen.
  • Blogging about your birding trips.
  • Watching bird documentaries.
  • You can do bird sketches or paintings.

You can also hang a bird feeder outside your window and enjoy the parade of birds coming to feed. Alternatively, you can install a webcam to monitor activities at your bird feeder or nest box.

12. Birding is great for socializing

Birding is a great hobby for socializing because you can do it with any number of participants. You can do it alone, with one or two friends, or in a large group. This means that you can control the level of interaction.

You learn more about birding when you do it with others because you get to interact with people with different birding skills.

To find people that you can do birding with, you can:

  • Look online to see if there is a birding group in your area.
  • Ask at your local nature-based NGO, university, or government agency (such as the wildlife department).
  • Attend nature-related events such as fairs, conferences, or talks.
  • Ask at your local specialty shops (for example, shops that sell binoculars or spotting scopes).
  • Ask your local librarian whether there are people who come to borrow books on birds.

If you can’t find people to do birding with, consider forming your own birding group.

13. Birding can help you to exercise your creativity

Improving your capacity for creativity is probably one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Creativity opens up your mind, allowing you to develop innovative solutions to problems.

Many of the products and services that give us joy and make our lives easier are the products of creativity. To improve your creativity, you need to engage in creative activities regularly. Birding can help you to do that.

Here are some great examples of creative activities involving birding.

  • Bird photography. You can have your photos featured in bird magazines or photography competitions and exhibitions.
  • Bird art. You can get into bird painting, drawing, or sculpture.
  • Writing. You can write about birds in your local magazine or start a birding blog. Alternatively, you can keep a birding journal.
  • Bird app development. If you are into coding, you can use your skills to develop bird apps to identify birds in your local area.

14. Birding can help you engage in some friendly competition

If you are into fun and adrenaline, you can engage in friendly competition with your friends.

A movie like The Big Year (see trailer below) is a hilarious take on what competitive birding enthusiasts go through in their quest to spot rare species.

Competition is also great for helping to collect data, especially on rare species. Some of the global birding events you can watch out for include:

  • Global Big Day
  • World Migratory Bird Day
  • World Series of Birding

15. Birding helps you to care more about nature

There is something awe-inspiring and remarkable about birds and nature in general.

Once you get into birding, you start to notice and appreciate things you would have otherwise ignored. You realize that nature is indeed a gift.

For example

  • You will marvel at how birds build their intricate nests or successfully raise their young.
  • Witnessing annual bird migration spectacles will delight you.
  • Philandering sparrows, thieving magpies, or trap-setting nuthatches will fascinate you.

These simple pleasures won’t cost you anything, and you can spend many happy hours lost in the goings-on in nature.

16. Birding is a hobby that makes you stand out

Do you feel like your hobbies are too boring? Or that you have hobbies everyone else seems to have? (for example, watching movies, listening to music, reading, etc.)

If this is true for you, then you need a hobby that can help you stand out and be unique. Birding can help you do that.

Birding is a good hobby if you want to stand out because:

  • It is not a very common hobby. Only 45 million Americans (or 13%) are birders, so you are likely to find many people who would be intrigued by your hobby.[13]
  • You travel to exotic places. Birders tend to travel to places that few other people go. You get to meet local people and learn about their culture. This expands your mind in a way that few other things can.
  • You become an interesting person. As a birder, you accumulate life experiences that other people rarely get to have. For example, seeing the King Penguin in the Antarctic or the concentration of flamingos in Kenya’s rift valley.

17. Birding helps you to make an impact

Roughly 48% of existing bird species worldwide are undergoing population decline. In the United States and Canada, nearly 3 billion breeding birds have been lost in the past 50 years. [14]

These shocking statistics reveal the dire plight that birds are facing. Birding allows you to help slow down the extinction of birds. As a birder, you can make a big difference by:

  • Contributing your birding data to national databases (such as those by Cornell University).
  • Becoming more aware of the impact of pets like cats on bird populations.
  • Contributing to research and conservation action.

The more people get involved in birding, the better things will be for birds.

Wrapping Up

Birdwatching has transformed my life in many ways, and in this article, I wanted to give you a glimpse into some of these benefits. If you are looking for a new hobby, give birding a try.

Hopefully, I have made a good case for why birdwatching is the ultimate hobby.

On this site, I write a lot about hobbies, so if you are bored and want to find a hobby (or hobbies) to spice up your life, you can check out the articles below.

Happy birding!