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What is the Difference between a Birder and a Bird Hunter?

Bird hunters support wildlife habitat conservation through license sales, excise taxes, and projects funded by conservation groups.

Last Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio, host Billy Hildebrand and I interviewed one of our favorite guests, naturalist Stan Tekiela.  The topic of the morning was bird watching. 

Did you know that according to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study published in 2001 that one in five Americans are considered birders, or bird watchers?  That ratio represents 46 million people!  Compare that with the fact there are 2 million pheasant hunters and 1 million quail hunters in the U.S.  Quite the difference!

Stan described a birder as a person that likes to be outside, is passionate about wildlife, is a conservationist and cares about the environment.  As Stan talked about bird watching and the people that consider themselves birders, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in profiles to Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever members.  The primary differences between the two groups are a birder collects his/her quarry with a list or a camera, while a bird hunter bags the targeted species with a shotgun, and both thinks the other is a little bit crazy.

Stan also brought up the fact that birders have been major beneficiaries of the hunting community’s financial contributions for decades.  It has always been hunters who have contributed to wildlife habitat through license sales, excise taxes, and projects funded by conservation groups like Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the Ruffed Grouse Society.  Imagine if we could figure out a way to get 46 million birders to make even a fraction of the contribution that hunters do! 

I’ve been thinking about the comparison between bird hunters and birders all week.  As an admitted bird hunting addict and non-birder, I wonder if birders are subconsciously acting out the human instinct to be hunter-gatherers.  Birders complete the entire ritual of a hunt, but ultimately “capture” in a photo album or on a list rather than in the frying pan.  Although I’m certainly biased toward bird hunters, I believe a better understanding of each other would broaden hunters’ view while deepening the birders’ respect of us.  

What do you think is the difference between a bird hunter and a bird watcher?

Podcast the FAN Outdoors interview with Stan Tekiela

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

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2 Responses to “What is the Difference between a Birder and a Bird Hunter?”

  1. christine says:

    Where I live in Alaska, the difference is not just in how quarry is collected. The birders compete for access to the same resources as hunters – primarily waterfowl hunters – and the regulations in the area are of a complexity that, where bird-vieweing platforms are built, hunters are no longer able to hunt these areas. This reality, along with a skewed poll of “birder” numbers (does buying bird seed and hanging it off your back porch make you a birder?), affects the decisions of regulators and communities when it comes to decisions that affect larger user groups. For example, the birder numbers are used to persuade local governemnts that installation of a birding platform will increase tourism, yet, the resulting platform becomes under-utilized. Further, the birders I know are fond of extolling that they are “non-consumptive” users whilst us hunters are “consumptive.” The birder that told me this was an extremely over-weight retired biologist who, I am willing to wager, consumes more in a day than I do in a week. Not just a single, painfully won bird, but in his trampling of sensitive habitat, his purchase of large quantities of food and his taste in disposable footwear. Just saying.

  2. Mitch Hurt says:

    You can certainly be both. I am. I like to hunt and kill game birds for me to eat. I like to hunt and kill birds for my dogs. And I also spend lots of days with just the binos looking at birds.


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