Birding has become so popular among urban 20-30 something’s that Conde Nast Traveler called it one of the biggest international trends of the year.
- Rebranded as ‘urban birding,’ birdwatching is popping up in the most unlikely places e.g. LA’s Ace Hotel has held ‘Birds and Booze‘ rooftop events and the London-based Urban Birder (aka David Lindo) runs masterclasses and field trips.
- For some young birders spotting new birds and adding them to their personal catalogue is similar to a real-life Pokemon Go mission.
- I’ve been doing a bit of research on birding because I’m on the hunt for a new pair of lightweight binoculars to keep with me at all times. NYC, for those not aware, is great for birding with raptors frequently spotted on rooftops.
- NYC Urban Park Rangers also run several birding events. I’ve attended eaglewatch and hawk spotting around Central Park. This is where I first met Rob Mastrianni, one of NYC’s most renowned raptor whisperers (pic above).
Read on below for more on how birdwatching was rebranded through new language and gamification – both key to attracting millennials and gen z’s to the sport.
Part of the rebranding is a new language e.g. birders are young, urban and active vs. birdwatchers who are (supposedly) passive, older and generally upper middleclass suburbanites.
- Millennials are also being lured to birding by online social networks and online databases that keep track of birders’ checklists and rank users against each other. The “oldtimers” are reluctant to use these platforms.
- The most popular platform is eBird, which every young birder uses. The system gamifies the hobby, making it cooler vs. geeky.
- eBird comes from the Cornell Ornithology Lab which also created the Merlin Bird ID app that I use – and wrote about in 2014.
- If you’re in the Midwest, check out the Urban Birding Festival that’s being held May 11-20 in Minneapolis.
- Boston is another city turning into a hot spot for birding.
- Finally, there’s instagram with over 1MM posts for #birding and almost 2MM for #birdwatching. Highly recommend following both if birds are even of marginal interest.
Here are some of my favorite birding experiences:
Eagles on rooftops (and ice floes) everywhere.
HORICON MARSH, WISCONSIN
My hands were too frozen to even take photos on our eaglewatch excursion but we saw 13 eagles on the Hudson River.