Why I’m not a twitcher

Recently I’ve posted several pieces about birds and birding, and I guess the casual reader might have concluded I’m a twitcher.  Nothing could be further from the truth. In day-to-day conversation most people use the words “twitcher” and “birdwatcher” interchangeably, but this is completely wrong.  To be absolutely clear: I’m not, never have been, and never will be a twitcher. Neither is Mrs P. Capiche?

Twitchers may enjoy seeing wild a Eurasian crane, which is bouncing back in the UK after a reintroduction programme

So just what is a twitcher? 

Twitching is … “the pursuit of a previously located rare bird.” …. The term twitcher, sometimes misapplied as a synonym for birder, is reserved for those who travel long distances to see a rare bird that would then be ticked, or counted on a list. … The main goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one’s lists.

SOURCE: Wikipedia, retrieved 25 August 2019

Twitching is anathema to me. It sounds like a sad and lonely activity undertaken primarily by sad and lonely men who really need to get their priorities in order. 

Sadly, no self-respecting twitcher would give this wood pigeon a second glance

Twitchers appear to care little for the bird itself, but are obsessed by the chase.  For them it’s all about the quarry. Once a particular species has been seen and ticked off in the appropriate book or list they quickly lose interest and move on to the next challenge.  It’s as if by seeing the bird it becomes their property, theirs to log and then ignore as they immediately consign it to history in favour of the next target.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see a rarity, to get the chance to study in the flesh a bird that most birders have only read about.  But it gives me just as much pleasure to spend a quiet moment watching an everyday bird like a wood pigeon or a bullfinch as it does to glimpse a rarity. 

Sex and the City: peregrines mate on a ledge at a local disused cotton mill. Twitchers and peregrines in simultaneous ecstasy?

Even if it’s as common as muck, a bird is still a masterpiece of nature.  Birds are tangible evidence of evolution in action, sculpted from bones and flesh and feathers.  I love nothing more than to marvel at their very existence, to learn about their lives and to enjoy their antics as they go about the everyday business of living.

Twitchers, it seems to me, are doomed to a life of unhappiness: they have never seen enough birds, or the right birds, to bring them the satisfaction they crave.  Mrs P and I, however, live in the moment, enjoying the starling or the sea eagle or whatever else comes our way, taking simple pleasure in the wonder of nature. This to me is what birding should be about, not pursuing a quarry species to the ends of the Earth and then all but forgetting it once it is seen. 

Twitchers, please don’t dismiss the bullfinch just because it’s a common bird

There’s a book in here somewhere, Zen and the Art of Birding Contentment perhaps?  My next project, maybe?


  1. tanjabrittonwriter · December 5, 2019

    Your assessment might rouse the ire of an entire flock of single-minded rarity seekers, Mr. P. I can’t speak for all bird lovers, of course, but I think there are at least as many varieties as there are birds. Maybe I haven’t encountered enough of the single-minded twitchers, who can’t see the forest for the trees, but in my experience, most of us ornithophiles appreciate most birds. To deny that additional enjoyment and satisfaction are brought by the discovery of a novel or rare species would be a lie, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 5, 2019

      Yes, I’ve probably ruffled a few feathers, ha ha ha 😂. I like seeing rare species too: witness my joy at the tracking down of the kiwi a couple of weeks ago. But there’s a small group of obsessional people (men, almost entirely) who seem to be motivated by the thrill of the chase rather than the beauty of the bird at the end of it, and when people call me a twitcher I feel they are assuming I’m like that. Maybe hardcore twitching is a peculiarly British thing? There are stories – maybe apocryphal, but maybe not – of grooms who have abandoned their brides at the altar and driven off into the sunset because a rare bird alert has told them about the unexpected arrival of a Lesser Spotted Brown Job or whatever in some remote corner of the UK. Mrs P would not have been amused! Birding is a broad church and so long as no birds are hurt it’s not a problem to me what they do, but (because I’m vain, maybe?) I don’t want people to think I can’t enjoy the beauty of common birds as well as rare ones! 😉


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