Birdwatching has come a long way from the backyard feeder. According to a U.S. Department of the Interior survey, 5.2 billion was directly spent on expenses related to watching and enjoying birds in 1991. The industry includes not only bird feeders and seed, but optical equipment, guided tours, festivals, and publications. A number of online resources exist to help beginners get started and veterans get the most out of each field trip.
The Usenet newsgroup rec.birds is one of the oldest birding resources online. Participants post questions and responses on a variety of bird-related topics. Etiquette for participants is included in its Frequently Asked Questions list.
Another popular tool is the National Birding Hotline Cooperative, a group of mirrored mail lists for specific birding interests. BIRDCHAT, the discussion list, has approximately 1000 subscribers who receive between 8 and 30 messages per day. (To control mailbox congestion, the list offers a DIGEST option that concatenates each day's messages into a single message.) BIRDCHAT contributors range from neophytes to prominent ornithologists. They include professors, professional trip leaders, and even the captain of a boat that runs pelagic (seabird) tours.
Serious birders can get timely reports of rare bird sightings in practically every state by subscribing to the NBHC lists BIRDEAST (east coast), BIRDCNTR (central states) and BIRDWEST (west coast).
Rare bird alert information is also available via the Geographical Bird Finder. This site also provides links to regional bird clubs that offer birdwalks and lectures open to the public.
Most birders record their sightings on a "life list." For those who don't use general databases, special listing software applications are available for various computing platforms. Information on Listing Software for Birders, compiled by Richard Danca, includes reviews and order information.
Looking for binoculars? Check out the Optics for Birding Home Page.
If you need a field guide, you can also find samples on the Web. Excerpts from the Handbook of Birds of the World are available for browsing. The Web also has sites advertising some multimedia offerings:
Increasing numbers of web pages are devoted to certain species of birds (like bluebirds or hawks) or birding organizations (like the National Audubon Society). These and other bird-related sites that can be found by browsing collections like the following:
For practice in simulated birding situations, check out the photo id quiz at the Wetnet Shorebirds page and the interactive bird tours at the Virtual Birder, an online web magazine for birders.
When you're ready to go into the field, the following sites may come in handy:
If you really get hooked, join the millions of avitourists. Great Outdoors Recreation Page (GORP) - Birding tours lists worldwide trips run by various companies.