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01:00 Fri 05th Apr 2002 |

Q. So, why are birdwatchers called twitchers

A. It's an appellation that appeared some time around the middle of the last century, though, typically, the source is obscure. The best guess is that a twitcher is a birder who actively seeks out new birds to put on their lifelist...

(Q. Lifelist

A. The full list of birds spotted in a lifetime's birding.)

Q. Go on...

A. ...and the term is supposed to describe the uncontrollable spasms of excitement when seeing a new bird for the first time. Most birders are twitchers to some extent, but the degree to which the ticking off of new species is important is a personal thing and is an essential part of twitching. Some birders can be described as 'hard-core twitchers', that is those interested in nothing other than collecting new species for their list.

Q. So the difference between twitcher and a birder is one of degree

A. Kind of. Most birders, twitchers included, enjoy seeing birds they have already seen. But birdwatching which is not oriented towards twitching - that is, without the emphasis on finding new species - is usually more leisurely, unless it becomes power-birding.

Q. What

A. Power-birding: obsessive birding, which may or may not involve the twitching trait of compulsive collecting.

Q. Blimey. What is it about watching birds, then

A. In the non-Loaded sense Birdwatching has grown in appeal alongside a whole host of other outdoor activities, perhaps as a result of the heightened sensibilities we all have towards eco-matters. It is generally regarded as a leisurely and relaxing hobby, one which fulfils our natural curiosity and desire to learn as well as meeting the need to challenge ourselves in sometimes less-than-comfortable or even dangerous surroundings. The annual Radio 4-RSPB survey as well as the increased number of television programmes on birdwatching - more often than not featuring ex-Goodie Bill Oddie - are testament to its heightened profile.

And, should you ever feel the need to listen to examples of bird-calls, both native and foreign, the National Sound Archive Wildlife Section at the British Library has a whole archive devoted to recording and storing such.

Q. What about some twitcher lingo

A. It's somewhat arcane, but here are a couple of examples: 'Gripping' a bird means that you've 'got it' and you can add it to you lifelist. Conversely, when you go looking for birds and miss out on something you should have seen then you 'dipped out' on that species.

For more on Phrases & Sayings click here

By Simon Smith

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