Not all birdwatchers are twitchers

One definition of “twitch” in the Oxford English dictionary is a sudden spasmodic contraction of muscles or limbs. Hence, somebody demonstrating short, sudden jerking or convulsive movement is described as “twitchy”.

Sunday, 1st June 2014, 10:00 pm
Watching birds from a hyde. Pic by Nigel Roddis

In response to “I am not a twitcher”, I fear he or she is yet another person who uses the term twitcher as a synonym for birdwatcher.

The term twitcher originated in the 1950s when it was used to describe the nervous behaviour of Howard Medhurst, a British birdwatcher, who became twitchy during periods of autumnal easterly winds with the thought of what rare birds they may bring to these shores.

The term has now come to mean a birdwatcher who travels, sometimes long distances, to see a rare bird found by somebody else, in order to add it to their life list.

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In this sense, twitching is akin to collecting engine numbers or Stobart lorry names and is predominantly a male occupation.

All twitchers are bird watchers but not all birdwatchers are twitchers. I get annoyed when my bird watching and bird study activities are referred to as twitching and myself as a twitcher. Birdwatcher or birder yes, twitcher no.

Tony Cooper

Regional Representative – British Trust for Ornithology,

Chairman of East Lancashire Ornithologists’ Club.