Sh*t birders say – for non birders

Sh*t birders say explained.

by Gunnar on April 7, 2012 · 2 comments

in Birding North America

Viral birding

There have been pretty amazing few days lately checking out how Jason Kessler’s short 3 min video about birding talk has gotten 40,000 views as I write this (10 days later).  I think the video could reach a far larger audience, so I have asked people if they would pass this on to non-birders.

Would non-birders at all understand this? I argued, that the film The Big Year and the twitcher documentary on BBC over a year ago, would have primed a lot of non-birders to understand birders better.  Some birder friends said that a lot would still be total jibberish for non-birders. They may be right, and that is why I am writing this follow-up post.

More fun with captions.

Maybe it would be easier to understand the by activating the automated subtitles generated by Google’s speech recognition? Try it! Just press CC and select.  Quite obviously the speech recognition programmers are not birders. This comes out even more funny!  See the top photo for this post.

How to understand birder talk?

Captions won’t do the trick. We need to explain. Let’s make a dictionary for the video. Let’s go through the video bit by bit.

  • The title. Plays on the Sh*t ______s  Say meme covering a multitude of stereotypical target demographs. The first one was Sh*t my dad says on Twitter, which turned into a TV series and later Sh*t girls say on YouTube to finally explode  into a Sh*tload people say.  To reach birders it was very smart to play on this meme.
  • I lost it. It flew. Many times the birds just are not where they just were. Gone!
  • Can you see what color the legs are? Leg color can often give a clue to the identity of the species. Especially true for waders and gulls. But it may not be straight-forward to see the color due to poor light, mud or simply 10% of the male birders are red-green color blind.
  • Whoa! May be something good. Most of the time it isn’t.
  • 5:30. Crap! Yes, it is absolutely true. The early bird gets the early worm. Birds are most active at dawn. So you should try to get up as early as possible. Every birder knows this. Still hard to get out of bed.
  • You see that green tree? The art of giving useful directions to where the bird is. Sometimes it is as hilarious as this. Variations of useless information are: It is over the water. It’s in the tree. Look where I am looking.  Take your pick.  Green laser pointers help nowadays for giving directions.
  • Fairly common. Extinct. Fairly Extinct. The field guide tries to give you an indication how common the bird is. The self applied rules birders make (or rather should make) is that the common birds are more likely to see than the rare.  The problem is that the field guide does not know exactly where you are or what you see.  The last “fairly extinct” was the funny punch-line in case you missed that. If you did, skip the video back a few seconds and listen to it again in slow-motion. Did you get it now?
  • Did you bring a Sibley’s. There are almost as many field guides as there are birds. Not really, but there are many. And one may ask, why would anyone have more than one field guide when they contain basically the same birds. However, some are more useful in the field than others. Others are so packed with information, large and heavy that they are best left in the car. So for comparison, many birders have a set of books with them for reference.  Here is list of the bird field guides seen or mentioned in the video – with corresponding (affiliate) Amazon-link and a short description about each.
    • National Geographic. It is the first which appear in the flick. A classic and very popular field guide published in many editions. When it came out it much replaced the use of Peterson’s, as it had text, plates and maps on the fold.
    • The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America is the most successful field guide in recent year. With marvelous paintings of the birds made by the author David Allen Sibley. It uses arrows and small text next to the paintings highlighting the field marks.
    • Peterson’s. The Peterson system with arrows pointing to the field marks revolutionized birding. There is a recent updated and improved edition of this classic
    • Stokes flashed by. A field guide based on photos.
    • Golden Field Guides The only one in this lot that includes sonograms of the calls which can be useful to try to learn the birdcalls.
    • Kaufman came up with a new concept. The birds from photographs had simply been cut out and placed on a clean neutral background.
    • Crossley GuideThe same technique Kaufman used was used by Crossley to produce a very different approach to birdbooks. In a background photo which represents the habitat birds from the same species in different plumages and postures are pasted into the photo scene. The result is beautiful.Which is your favorite field guide? Please make comments below in the comments section. Which one would you recommend to someone who just started birding.


  • Give it five more minutes. Birders have lot of patience and dedication. And they never give up. Five more minutes is rarely just five more minutes, to constant irritation by non-birding spouses accompanying in the field.
  • The third left after the cows. There are guides published how to get to the best birding areas as well. Sometimes they are  completely out of date and the landscape has changed. That field of cows may not be there when coming back in winter.
  • You’ve got 8s? Constant discussion. 8x or 10x? 8s have better field of view and the viewing experience is brighter. But 10x adds more detail. Although 9s would be a good compromise, they are rarely encountered.
  • Psh! Psh! Psh! Psh! – called pishing.  Pishing is supposed to bring the bird closer to the observer. It theory the sound is like alarm calls birds to. In reality there are three possible outcomes from pishing.
    1. The bird comes closer.
    2. The bird stays where it is.
    3. The bird is scared off. In spite of the odds, you often hear birders pishing. The ironic thing is that all that noise often ends in a Shhh – as in the video flick – telling everyone else who has been silent to shut up!
  • Birding in the weirdest places.  Although birding among the trash cans in the back alleys is a bit weird, you should not be surprised to find birders in garbage dumps or sewage plants.  The places tend to attract gulls in large numbers.
  • I just think we’d be better off if we were seeing other people, it’s just that.. oops… Notice that birders rarely finish a sentence if there are birds around. Birders are always subconsciously looking for birds, even when they are driving.
  • This one is supposed to say “twee twee twee”… Field guides often try to describe the calls and songs of the birds. Often it comes out as confusing as this. Best way to learn birdcalls is listening to recordings while checking the field guide’s description of the call.
  • Technically, we are not supposed to be here. Birders as a group have made many moves that could justify that comment. That could include tresspasing or call in as sick at work in order to see a rare bird.
  • I’m hot. I’m cold. The weather is rarely just right for birders. It is most often too hot, too cold, too windy, too calm, too wet, too much rain, too dry, too much snow, too dark, too bright, etc to see or to find a specific bird.
  • Dipped. Birder’s slang. When going to see a particular bird, especially a rare migrant that has showed up all of a sudden, and when getting to the site, you realize that the bird you looked for has moved on and can’t be re-fund, you dipped. You did not find what you looked for. You dipped.
  • With special thanks to: This one is for you to figure out! To separate different species you often need to check the color and form of different parts of the bird.

Why sharing?

The more people that understand our hobby, the more new birders will emerge. And the more birders there is, ther more people there would be caring about  bird conservation and ensuring conservation green areas for birdwatching. The birdwatching lobby needs to become larger than the huntng lobby. We can do more good as a mainstream crowd than a marginal movements perceived as weirdos or nerds.  We are moving away from  such perception, but we need to move faster and we need to grow faster and stronger as a movement. This is a good opportunity  to do so.

Now you can share with non birders and make them understand. Remember, we put out a small contest in the last blogpost. Guess how many views the video will have by May 3 and win Jason Kessler’s Opposable Chums DVD. Please enter your guesses in the comment section of this blog (below) or on the  Birdingblogs Facebook page. Don’t forget to like the Facebook page. You have until April 12 to make guesses (yes we expanded the deadline).
Who can get most shares and likes on Facebook sharing this blogpost or the previous blogpost? Post a screenshot of your shared link from your Facebook profile on Birdingblogs Facebook page on before  May 1 (midnight Eastern Time). The winner will also win a dvd of Opposable Chums.  Don’t know how to make a screen-shot. Try this free program called Jing.

Just for the record: Did you share the video with birding friends and non birding friends? Did they like it? What was the most common reaction? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and let us know if you are sharing this post or the video again.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Kessler April 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Thanks for the benevolent elucidation, Gunnar. Your explanations are funnier than the video.


deb May 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm

shared with many  thanks for the post and thanks to Jason for a WAY FUNNY video


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