Enjoy Nature with a New Hobby: Birdwatching 101

We’ve all sat at the kitchen table, eyes trained out the window, and spotted a beautiful bird landing on the nearest branch. Or perhaps your kids have spotted their favorite species nesting in the tree out back. Watching birds is a habit that most of us have daily but doing so intentionally is what turns a common practice into a fun, lifelong hobby. Suppose you’re interested in nature and reconnecting with the physical and mental health benefits of being outside. In that case, you’re in luck—birdwatching might be the perfect new hobby for you.

What is Birdwatching?

Birdwatching, or “birding,” is a hobby that has been around for ages but has recently gained more popularity and attention. In 2016, over 45 million Americans self-identified as birdwatchers (or “birders”), and many more picked up the hobby during the lockdowns in 2020. Birdwatching can be for casual fun or more serious pursuits, like finding all North American species during your lifetime. Still, all that’s required is setting your sights outside and looking for birds. The hobby is often calm and non-competitive, requiring no set amount of hours or progress.

Who Can Participate?

Birding is a hobby open to people of all ages and walks of life. One of the reasons it’s gaining in popularity is its universal appeal. Young children love spotting birds as they fly or land on branches; even the common neighborhood species are exciting to find. Older adults can participate in this hobby easily since strength and agility aren’t required. No matter where you live, there are birds! Part of the fun is finding new species in different environments throughout your life.

Why Should I Try It?

Low Barriers to Entry

Have you ever heard about a new hobby and been excited to try it, only to find out that you’ll need a substantial amount of money for the basic equipment or class fees? With birdwatching, you don’t have to worry about those obstacles—you can start anytime you like, without training or equipment! If you want a little more structure. However, investing in a pair of binoculars and a field guide to the birds in your local area can be helpful.

Mental Wellness Benefits

Birdwatching is a hobby that requires attention and focus, skills that mimic mindfulness and meditation. When you’re calmly aware of what’s happening around you, your brain is free to let go of stresses and anxiety from the day. Living in the moment while searching for and listening to birds can help you reset from an otherwise overwhelming schedule. A study relating nature with stress recovery shows that many people associate birdsong with the ability to relax and recover after a challenging experience. Whether you’re recovering from a hard day at work or a bigger trauma, getting outside to hear the birds can be therapeutic. Another recent study noted that people who saw more birds during the day had lower depression, anxiety, and stress rates—and interacting with the birds wasn’t even necessary! Simply seeing them improved mental health outcomes.

Physical Wellness Benefits

Birdwatching can be a fairly sedentary hobby if you’d like it to be. Sitting on the back porch, binoculars in hand—what a relaxing way to start the day! If you’re looking for more physical activity. However, birding is an excellent way to get in some laps around the park. Commit to walking or hiking in at least one new location each month and explore your current spots several times a week. Set a goal for the number of birds you want to spot before you finish your walk for maximum physical health benefits.

Community Connections

Bird watchers notice each other—and that’s a good thing! Taking up birdwatching as a new hobby means having a community and instant connection whenever you travel or move to a new place. Because the bird populations vary widely by location, whenever you find yourself somewhere new, you’ll have a reason to get outside and look around for different species. Chances are, you’ll meet some other bird enthusiasts along the way.

If you’re interested in nature and looking for a fun new hobby, give birdwatching a try today!


This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.

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