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The Terrifying Truth About Birdwatchers

Updated on September 27, 2018

Innocent hobbyists? Or deadly undercover agents?

Birding is such an innocent hobby, isn't it? What could be more harmless, charming and innocent than the genteel birdwatcher?

Having travelled with a flock of birders, I started out quite cheerful, surrounded by other wildlife watchers, hoping to pick up some advanced camera tips and bird knowledge. But over time, one too many references to "knocking them off", or "killed that one" or "took the shot" or "in the bag", as well as a few other worrying phrases, made me both suspicious and uneasy.

On paying more careful attention to their habits and equipment, I came to realise that I was actually in terrible danger. For I was travelling not with innocent bird watchers, if such people even exist, but with a group of deadly assassins and professional spies.

Evidence That Birdwatchers Are Not What They Claim to Be

Highly suspicious attributes pointing to something darker at work

Whether the entire profession is a fallacious, they go into it as a very effective cover, or are actively recruited from the ranks of actual birdwatchers, I cannot yet say. But consider the following points.

  • They own and are very familiar with high powered telescopes and can observe the tiniest details from huge distances.

  • They come equipped with recording devices capable of picking up the tiniest squeak of an incriminating whisper, and cameras that can zoom into the text of a private document a mile away.

  • They have very good aim and are practiced with shooting the tiniest, jitteriest birds. No Matrix-style dodges will work on them.

  • They can deal with any size or number of targets, from a single creature to a vast crowd, or pick one out from a mob of others.

  • They can travel to anywhere in the world, at a moment's notice, on the excuse of 'some bird might have been seen there'. They do not look out of place and have a perfect excuse, whether they're halfway up a skyscraper with a telescope trained on an oil magnate's estate, hiding in a bush on top of a mountain or peering over a dictator's wall in the middle east.

  • They are skilled in camouflage and can create hiding places almost anywhere. They can blend in to any territory and are skilled at infiltrating their target's home ground.

  • They are hardy and extremely patient. They can stalk their target for hours, and cope with extremes of climate and location.

  • They tend to assume colourful dialects and personalities, ideal for undercover work.

  • They speak in complicated jargon and made up sounding names when allegedly discussing birds, which acts both as camouflage that nobody can call them on and as an elaborate secret code.

  • They keep detailed notes, in the same code.

  • And lists of targets, which they tick off as they complete missions.

  • Many openly admit to being 'on assignment', supposedly for newspapers and projects, but clearly for more sinister purposes.

  • Having a bird hobby stops them getting too bored while sitting in a bush for seventeen hours waiting for a target to move into range.

  • Most people are convinced they are, at the least, eccentric, making it easy to hide what might otherwise be unusal behaviour.

Does This Look Like Innocent Civilian Equipment? - I didn't think so.

Telephoto lenses as long as your arm, tripods and insanely highpowered binoculars, all thousands of dollars? Throw in a wide selection of camouflage gear, and you cannot persuade me that these are the tools of innocent hobbyists.

Just check out the prices on these things, and decide for yourself. But I think it's pretty clear, something sinister is going on here.

Should I Warn the World? - Is it worth trying to blow the whistle and uncover the truth about these so-called twitchers?

I'm not quite sure whether I should publish this, as I fear to attract their attention. On the other hand, they're easy to distract by shouting "Look! A New Caledonian Storm Petrel!*" and then legging it while they set up their gear and then spend half an hour peering into the skies, arguing over whether said "bird" could possibly be found in a South American rainforest and what it actually was.

I've settled for an anonymous webpage. I'm still working up the courage for a real world whistleblowing attempt.

* A code used by very professional "birders" for an elusive target with a large bounty on their head; it's believed he is somewhere on the run in the South Pacific area. Most believe that the sightings are a case of misidentification, and he is actually just a guy called Wilson, but they'll look anyway

Should I go public with this? How much danger am I in?

I surveyed a few people about this and the responses leave me feeling no safer.

It's your clear duty to warn people

Hal Gall: I see them everywhere! At the grocery store, the gas station, in sporting goods stores. They also seem to congregate in camera stores at the mall. You can't even take a stroll in the woods without seeing one. And I thought it was just me...

lesliesinclair: I think you have gotten off on the right foot. Now put the other one down.

floppypoppygift1: Frankly, a lot. I say buy a mustache.

Lorelei Cohen: OMG I had no idea what was really going on at bird counts around the world. Thank goodness you clued in.

No! Say nothing!

David Gardner: Hmmm. And so if I spot a blue-footed booby or a yellow-bellied sapsucker I'm in trouble? Say it ain't so! Congrats on a Squidoo masterpiece! :-) A fun read. (And yes, I've observed the blue-footed boobie in their natural habitat in the Western Pacific Marianas islands. ;-)

Rowan Chisholm: All is discovered! Flee!

SteveKaye: Did you know that there really is a Wilson's Storm Petrel?

FlynntheCat1: @Steve Kaye: You think I can be fooled that easily? Ha! (Yes I did - I just came off a birding cruise in the Pacific :D )

Do You Have Any More Evidence of the "Birdwatcher" Conspiracy? - Who else has seen through their disguise?

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this lens! Very imaginative!

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      7 years ago

      This is hilarious and you've got me scared plenty. No birders for me.

    • Rangoon House profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Thank you so much for the warning!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Zounds! Foiled again.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have friends who are bird lovers but not bird watchers.

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 

      7 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Good stuff! Congrats on a Squidoo masterpiece!

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image


      7 years ago

      National Migratory Bird Day was May 4 at Madera Canyon. Now I am beginning to get the picture. Cheers~cb

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I am definitely going to be keeping a closer eye on SteveKay from now on. (Love your wacky wild sense of humor and your keen observation of how bird lovers really behave.)

    • lgOlson profile image

      L Olson 

      7 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Hah! I see we have the same twisted view of life! Loved it!


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