Nurturing Life's Ageless Spirit.

More and More People Flocking to Bird-Watching

a hummingbird flying

When the National Geographic Society declared 2018 “The Year of the Bird,” it reflected one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the country: bird-watching. (Only one hobby—gardening—has more fans.) According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, there are more than 47 million bird-watchers in America alone. This same report puts Minnesotans at the top of the flock when it comes to avid bird-watchers, tying with Iowa and coming in behind Montana, Maine, and Vermont.

Minnesota’s boreal-hardwood forests, broadleaf forests, and prairie ecotypes create the perfect environment for “an interesting diversity of birds and places to see them,” as described in Audubon Minnesota, an organization devoted to protecting birds and their habitats since 1979. Explore Minnesota, our state’s tourist information center, even publishes monthly birding reports, so you know what to watch for and when.

The beauty of this hobby is that you can be a birder and never step outside, or you can be a birder and travel the state pursuing this grown-up treasure hunt.  All you need is a decent pair of binoculars and a field guide, or the iPhone’s eBird app. And maybe a bird bath or feeder, too, if you want the birds to come to you.

If you’re willing to seek out the birds, popular birding trails include the Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail, Great River Birding Trail, and North Shore Birding Trail from Duluth to Grand Portage. With a little patience and curiosity, you can become an avid birder and learn the names, habits, and migratory patterns of feathered friends.    

Most people are interested based on the simple joy of connecting with nature and spotting unusual birds, but there are some fueled by a competitive drive to build an impressive “life list” of species. Just recently, new research by the American Museum of Natural History suggests there are 18,000 (!) bird species in the world—8,000 more than previously thought. That’s a whole lot of birds to discover! The documentary “Arjan’s Big Year,” details the adventures of birder Arjan Dwarshuis from Amsterdam, who spotted a record-breaking 6,833 birds in one calendar year, breaking the previous record held by American Noah Strycker of 6,042 species. During that time, Arjan traveled to 40 different countries and journeyed through jungles and forests in search of birds. He not only did it for the experience (and the title)—he also raised money for BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Program. Another movie highlighting the year-long competition to spot the most birds was the 2011 comedy “The Big Year” starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin. 

It’s easy to see the appeal. The hobby truly is “for the birds” (in a good way!) with the benefits of being relaxing, educational, entertaining, inexpensive, and easy. There are plenty of good spots to watch the birds at Catholic Eldercare. If you want to get started on your own checklist, you can find one here