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Backyard Birding is Trending!

May 14, 2020

NYT1Add backyard birding to the list of popular hobbies people have discovered while quarantined at home. The inducted know that watching the birds entertains, educates and allows for a relaxing escape, and now many more are taking notice. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016 survey, backyard bird feeding has over 65 million Americans, young and old, giving it a try and that number is growing.

The current pandemic has reoriented pastimes and concentrated more attention to home hobbies, including backyard bird feeding. News articles, radio programs and social media stories are extolling the virtues of the drama of backyard wildlife and is fast gaining new fans. The New York Times on May 11 published an article illustrating the parallels between now and an age gone past: 



 “How Animal Observation Can Free Us from Ourselves: Watching birds is a way of mobilizing attention, to turn it into a means of imaginative escape”

by Helen MacDonald

In Britain, comparisons to the Second World War have become a refrain of the Covid-19 crisis…something about the present circumstances made me remember those men and want to revisit the notes they took. They wrote about arriving in the camp and deciding it was paradise for a bird-watcher. Of how they watched for hours at a time, alone or in shifts — teams of men whose attention was fixed on the goldfinches that nested within the wire fences, on redstarts and wrynecks or warblers or crows — taking exactingly detailed notes of what those birds were doing every second of their witnessed lives…


…I think doing so brought them comfort; the birds they watched were free and knew nothing of war, and they were the same kinds they knew from home. But mostly watching the birds was a way of mobilizing attention, to turn it into a means of imaginative escape, a way to counter their own sense of captivity, of powerlessness, futility and despair…

…During lockdown I have been spending a considerable amount of time watching the common birds that visit my small backyard…Watching animals from your home — and they can be anything from sparrows to spiders on windowsills — can give solace…

…While the prison-camp ornithologists took their notes, trapped in a situation in which they had no control over what would happen to them. But they could observe. The simple act of watching the birds could lessen the grip of dismal circumstances upon these men. But by making their careful notes, they did something more: grant themselves a new sense of control…

… We can become deeply connected to the world through paying the most careful and fearless attention to what we can see, from wherever it is we must be.”

And other articles showed us how valuable the bird watching habit could be during the exact quarantine situation Americans now find themselves in:


The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), May 7, 2020

“Stuck at home? Backyard birding is the perfect quarantine activity” by Eli Francovich

“It has all the drama and intrigue of your favorite Netflix show. It’s an activity that can be done from home and doesn’t involve watching TV, drinking or cleaning. In short, backyard birding is the perfect quarantine activity.

It’s like having a whole cast of characters outside your windoSpokesmanw,’ Angela Roth said. ‘The hummingbirds, they’re kind of like divas and they are known to be backyard bullies. I’ve been watching the swallows try and take over the bluebird nesting boxes, so you’ve got your villains.’

From her home near Nine Mile Falls, Roth said backyard bird watching is ‘sheer entertainment’…


..now is a prime time to take up backyard birding. 



The New York Times, April 22, 2020

“How Bird-Watching Prepared Me for Sheltering in Place” by Nicholas Cannariato

“… Like any vulgar American, I had been socialized to value the blockbuster, the high status: the elephant seals, the humpback whales spouting just offshore. But when she showed me this modest and compelling bird — one I’d seen many times before, with whitish-gray plumage and a black-capped head, now completely close up — I began to see things differently…

…Birds have taught me to love what is small, what is delicate, what is elusive…In looking at common birds in my neighborhood, there’s a refreshing variety in their sameness, a consistent challenge to discern what seems too normal to even notice after so many times noticing. Bird-watching, in short, is about taking in the most in the shortest span of time.”

WAMU – National Public Radio, April 8, 2020

“You're Stuck Inside, But the Birds Aren't: Tips to Start Watching from Home” by Sam Nelson



‘Backyard birding is a perfect family activity for those sheltering at home,’ Rauch adds. "It is a great STEM lesson in terms of biology, ecology, food webs, adaptation, and more…


…In addition to planting native trees and plants, Rauch says people can support birds by setting up feeders and keeping cats indoors. But proper care starts with paying attention and the first rule of birding: look at the bird…You never know what you're going to see. It's like a treasure hunt every day. There's a meditative value to it…

…In this time of social distancing from other humans, some might feel a familial warmth in watching the birds fly home to D.C. ‘It's like seeing old friends,’ says Rauch.”


Slate, March 28, 2020

“You Have No Choice but to Become a Backyard Birder: A guide for how to start engaging with the most accessible and most delightful nature out there” by Nicholas Lund

“…the optimistic isolationist will find a whole amazing world of wildlife out there, enough to keep you busy until this is all over (and even beyond). It’s time to become a backyard birder…

…Birding is a perfect hobby for the quarantined. It requires little more than eyes and ears and some open sky. Like a good sitcom, you can follow the exploits of the main cast (the resident birds in your neighborhood) and enjoy a rotating collection of guest stars (migratory birds passing through in the coming weeks). You can be an active participant by feeder or building bird boxes, or you can just watch the action unfold…


…There’s a ton you can do to make your backyard more attractive to birds…put some feeders up…One tip here is to look at the seed you’re buying and avoid mixes that contain milo, a big red seed that is used as filler but is avoided by most birds. Nature stores have better selections than big chain stores, and those smaller businesses could sure use your dollars right now…

Don’t have a backyard? …Feeders work in the city, too, and there are ones that can be suction-cupped to a window…

…Excited to take advantage of this forced quarantine to develop a deeper appreciation for your local nature?...birds are the perfect way to remember that even the smallest backyard contains a big world, and one that’s worth watching.”


LIVE with Kelly and Ryan @LiveKellyandRyan


Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest ask their audience for Isolation Updates/what hobbies they are picking up. Viewers are responding with their bird feeding pictures with the hashtag #myquarantinehobby.





It’s no wonder that the birding hobby has found an expanded audience. The urge to find an activity that brings one in touch with nature is powerful, especially when you’re in one spot and have the time. Every time you pass a window, you can see something new. Birds are a comforting companion, a constant joy of color and activity that keeps us grounded and makes things simple and good for a few moments, which is especially vital during these unprecedented times.