Bird Watcher Vs. Twitcher: Similarities & Differences

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Looking for birds is a popular activity for many people, but the approaches taken can be quite different. Every person has a slightly different way that they enjoy bird watching, whether this is limiting the activity to watching birds in the garden or entering birding competitions.

Birders are casual birdwatchers who enjoy going on social birding excursions or watching birds at home or on vacation. Twitchers are serious birders who keep meticulous lists and dedicate their free time and travel to spotting rare birds. 

Bird watchers and twitchers are both people who watch birds. The difference, though, is that twitchers are competitive birders, while bird watchers tend to be more relaxed and less concerned about adding to their life list or winning a birding competition.

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Definition Of A Birdwatcher

Definition Of A Birdwatcher

A bird watcher is a person who has taken up the hobby of looking for birds in their natural habitat. Bird watchers also try to recognize and identify the birds that they see and hear. 

Definition Of A Twitcher

A twitcher is a bird watcher who is concerned more with finding and recording rare or unusual species of birds, which they can add to the list of the species they have seen. This activity is called twitching and is often considered to be the competitive form of bird watching. 

Similarities Between Bird Watcher And Twitcher

Bird watchers and twitchers both spend a lot of time outdoors looking for birds. You can find them in a variety of habitats, from suburban parks to isolated wilderness areas. They even visit unusual places like wastewater treatment plants, swamplands, and abandoned fields.

You can sometimes find both twitchers and regular bird watchers on organized birding trips. Many parts of the country will have bird clubs, which in the U.S. are likely to be affiliated with the Audubon Society. 

Bird clubs are a great way to learn about birds and gather information on the best places to bird watch. Clubs may also have planned outings that both twitchers and bird watchers can go on. In some places, it is safer option to bird watch in a group.


Both bird watchers and twitchers purchase binoculars and, sometimes, spotting scopes, which they use to view the birds. They both also have an assortment of birding field guides and birding apps. They may also invest in clothing that works well outdoors, along with backpacks to hold supplies. 

It is important to find clothing that works well in the outdoors in all weather conditions because bird watching takes place outdoors in all types of weather.  

Bird watchers and twitchers may also invest in camping supplies and equipment so that they can camp and stay over in wooded areas. This makes the odds of finding birds even higher because the person has all day and night to bird watch in the chosen area.

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You will also find both types of birders waking up very early in the morning to go out bird watching. They may also spend hours out in the field looking for birds and identifying birds. Both twitchers and bird watchers will probably record the species they see on each trip. 

Camping Trips

Both bird watchers and twitchers may go on camping trips to see birds. It is a good approach if you plan on spending some time in an area, as it increases the odds of seeing birds. Even rare birds are often most active early in the morning or at dusk, and if you are camping, it is easier to get out in the field and see these birds.

Photographic Records

Both twitchers and bird watchers may buy and use special cameras for taking photos of birds. While some bird watchers are more like photographers than birders, a photo serves as an important record if the person spots a rare bird. 

The person also needs to record the date, time, and grid reference where the photographed bird is seen. 

The importance of photographic records for rare birds is something that both twitchers and bird watchers will agree on and recognize to be true. As a bird watcher or twitcher, If you do happen to spot a rare bird, it is a good bet that nobody will believe you unless you have photographic evidence. 

There are various rare bird groups, email lists, and chat groups where individuals who are regularly out birding can list that they have seen a rare bird. Usually, the person seeing the rare bird will provide a photo and grid reference so that others can attempt to locate the bird if they want.


Both twitchers and bird watchers need to be ethical in their practice. In other words, birds should not be disturbed near their nests. It is also a bad practice to play bird calls and songs during nesting season when birds may be disturbed and lured away from their nest and chicks.

It is also important not to trespass on private property in pursuit of looking for one or more birds. If a rare bird is found on private property, then permission is needed before you can enter the person’s land. 

If you have to enter a park or sanctuary, then you should be aware that there may be an entrance fee and, possibly, a parking fee that is required. It is also important to avoid blocking roadways while bird watching as this is unfair to the people trying to travel through the particular area.

Differences Between Bird Watcher And Twitcher

Differences Between Bird Watcher And Twitcher

Bird watchers tend to be more relaxed in their approach to birding and are less concerned about listing and counting birds. Bird watchers often look for birds as a relaxing hobby and may be more interested in bird behavior or just the overall general experience of seeing and hearing birds in their natural habitats. 

Twitchers, on the other hand, are much more interested in how many different rare or vagrant species they can see and record. A twitcher will keep careful records and may go to great lengths to see that rare or unusual bird or the species that has eluded them until now. 

They may even travel great distances across the country in an attempt to spot a rare or vagrant bird, which is something bird watchers are less likely to do.

Bird watchers tend to run the gamut from children to older people, with the average age being in the mid-40s or 50s; the twitchers are more likely to be adults.  


A twitcher will also travel some distance to see a new bird they have not seen before. This is especially true when the bird is a rare species or vagrant. There are rare bird notification groups where people note the presence of a rare bird. Once a twitcher sees this, they will try to go and see the bird themselves. 

Twitchers include mainly adults who have the ability to travel and look for birds on their own. Children of twitchers may also become interested in twitching and travel with their parents to see birds.

Bird watchers will also sometimes go after a rare bird, but they tend to be less worried if they miss out on the opportunity. It also takes money and time to travel far from home to look for a bird that you may not even see. 

The costs involved can be a problem for both twitchers and bird watchers, but twitchers tend to be more likely to invest in such a trip.

A bird watcher is less likely to travel hundreds of miles to see a single rare bird. A twitcher will almost certainly try to visit the location of a rare bird, even if it means traveling a long distance.

Attitude And Dedication

There can sometimes be a conflict between general bird watchers and serious twitchers. While both look for birds, twitchers and bird watchers may frustrate each other since their approaches are quite different. 

Some bird watchers treat birding outings as social events, while twitchers are solely focused on adding rare birds to their life list. Twitchers and listers may be more likely to become annoyed if people are not as serious as they are. 

Similarly, a bird watcher may become annoyed by a person who only seems to care about adding to a list or seeing a new species. Twitchers may appear less interested and even bored by seeing the common birds, which may frustrate a general bird watcher. 

Despite their differences, most of the time, bird watchers and twitchers get along fine in the field because they are both interested in seeing birds, even though the goals may be different between the two. 


Bird watching

Sometimes, a bird watcher can become a twitcher, with their interest focused more on counting and listing rare species of birds than on just looking for and identifying all birds. 

It is not a bad thing if you are a twitcher or simply a bird watcher. Both involve a healthy activity, and so long as an ethical approach is used that does not harm the birds or anybody else, then it is not a problem. 

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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