Birders Got It: BADD


Forrest and his BADD self in Alaska 2011

Yay!  My computer is fixed.  Now on to the topic of the day…

All birders have what I like to call Birding Attention Deficit Disorder, otherwise known as BADD (no, the irony of that acronym has not escaped me).  When Forrest and I are hiking somewhere in Paradise Valley, or when we are driving the scenic Beartooth Pass, or even when we’re floating down the Madison River in a couple of tubes, I love watching him watch birds.  This hobby may sound boring to many of you, but I promise – it’s not.  Watching a birder watch birds is essentially the same as watching a seven year old with ADD, a plastic gun strapped to his back, find his way through a black-lit laser tag course in which a kitten is hidden in every nook or cranny (also, the refills of Mountain Dew are endless and he’s snorting lines of blue Pixie Stix dust).  Their eyes dart everywhere, their hands start shaking, their nostrils flare – the whole shebang.  Portrait of a Birder.  I think that will be the title of my first novel…

But to get back to the topic of BADD, it is a simple truth: all birders have it.  Not-so-deep-down, all birders have a seven year old suffering from ADD inside of them, but they can focus on one thing like no other: birds.  BADD could also be a factor in the stereotype that portrays birders as completely and utterly socially awkward, incapable of holding a “normal” conversation that does not include talk of migration patterns, display techniques, or how damn difficult it is to differentiate between gulls.  I like to think of birders as Star Wars nerds, only their Force consists of finding, identifying, and photographing these tweeting, flying, magical little creatures in the sky – all while giving you (the wife) a detailed verbal play-by-play.

I’m quite certain that in the beginning of my relationship with Forrest, he tried to hide this disorder of his and pushed down the BADD long enough to hold a few “Let’s get to know each other” conversations; however, this phase of our relationship did not last for very long, and soon I found myself driving down lovely Highway 89 with this wonderful man in the passenger’s seat, attempting to gain more information about his likes, dislikes, and thoughts on life in general (you know – all of those “I’ve been in this relationship a year” questions that determine whether you could see yourself with this person forever).  As we were talking and enjoying the scenery on this particular drive, I had this epiphany: all of the important conversations we were having as of late were punctuated with his verbal outbursts regarding the random birds that crossed our path – the BADD had finally reared its head.

Honestly, I wish I had a stenographer sitting in the back of the vehicle some days, just so I could go back and read all of the ridiculous conversations we’ve had that ultimately ended in – you guessed it – talking about birds.  And if I had to take a guess, I assume that we have sounded a lot like this:

G – If you could teleport, where would you go at this very instant?
F – That’s a great question.  Honestly, I—SANDHILL CRANE!
G – Oh, nice spot!
F – Yeah, you can see how the da da da dee blah dee blah on its beak and the way it wah wah wah wah waaaah wahs on its long legs.  So badass.
G – Mmmhmmm…
F – What were we talking about?
G – I can’t remember…what do you think about our country’s welfare system?
F – Well, I have some pretty strong opinions on the matter, but on the whole—WHAT IS THAT?  Holy shit.  Slow down a little bit.  NO, actually, pull off to the side of the road here.  Oh my God, oh my God.  *gets out binoculars*  No waaaay.  It’s a Rough-legged Hawk!  What’s that little guy doing here so late?  You see, baby, this hawk migrates blah dee blah dee blah wah wah wah waaah, so it really shouldn’t be here right now.  It really should be further north because waaaah waaaaaah waaaaaaaaah.
G – Awesome.  Do you think you’ll ever want to have kids?
*Long pause*
F – Sorry – what did you say?  HOLY SHIT!  Was that a Gray Partridge down there?!  Look!  She’s right there!  Get the f*ck out of here!  No waaaaaay.  I can’t believe this is happening right now…

You see, friends, if you know a birder or are getting to know a birder it’s important to recognize this one little fact: all birders have BADD, and every time they leave their homes (or even take a quick peek out of the window) they are instantaneously on a full-blown birding adventure.   For birders, there are distractions everywhere, and they don’t miss a one of them.  And they simply love telling you about whatever they spot, which at times can be very endearing, but other times it can be difficult to hold a focused conversation (and you may feel compelled to strangle him or drink a beer – or both).

So how, you might ask, do you get your birding friend or significant other to pay more attention to you and answer your deep, philosophical, big life questions without the constant BADD interruptions?  Well, the first step is to step out of your delusion because it’s not happening!  Just accept that you’ll have whatever important conversation you need to have at a later date.  BADD is incurable, so the best thing to do is what you would do in any healthy relationship: be patient, kind, and receptive.  Give in to the birding insanity – you may even learn something in the midst of all the BADD.

For instance, I recently learned that there is such a bird called the Cowbird, and this species is full of bastards – bastards, I tell you (quite literally, now that I think about it).  What these awful little on-the-go birds do is lay their eggs in another unsuspecting bird’s nest.  The ignorant little bird, whether it be a vireo or tanager, keeps the Cowbird’s eggs warm and doesn’t even realize that she’s been taking care of a stranger’s egg until it hatches (revealing the demon seed itself), at which point it’s too late – a bond has already been formed between the unsuspecting mother and the stupid little Cowbird baby.  But that’s not even the worst part!  Sometimes the Cowbird parent comes back to the nest when the adopted mom is gone and – yep – kills the adopted siblings of their bastard child – slaughters the other babies in the nest!  I mean, Cowbirds are too awful to take care of their own offspring, so they pawn them off on a good-hearted little bird (who keeps them warm, feeds them, nurtures them), and then BAM!  Out of nowhere that nasty Cowbird comes back, gives their kid(s) a little “What up?  How’s the nest, yo?” and then murders the other babies.  I mean, WTF?  Cowbirds are bastards.  I told you.

Wait though – hold on, hold on.  No…way…is that a Red-Headed Woodpecker?!…Let me tell you something super cool about this little guy…

And did I mention BADD may be contagious?



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46 responses to “Birders Got It: BADD

  1. Sarah Skinner

    Sounds all too familiar. You’re a pro now 😉

  2. You story is like reading my biography… I love it. If only my wife could understand this BADD like you do. Thank you so much for feeling our pain. My hat is tipped in appreciation to your tolerance and I salute your husband for his ideals and love of birds.. God Bless you both.
    Blair Cessna

  3. You hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Thanks for the laugh!

  4. This is hilarious Gabryelle, yet so true, well done for hitting the nail on the head and doing it with such eloquence and style!
    Best wishes from South Africa
    Adam Riley

    • Adam, thank you for your comment – I’m glad you enjoyed reading it! I look so forward to meeting you in the future and hope that you, your wife, and lovely little baby boy are doing well!

  5. Kim

    As a birder with a touch of BADD myself, I have to say…you nailed it! There’s an easy remedy though (but don’t tell anyone I told you): have all your conversations indoors. Just make sure the tv’s not on so he won’t be distracted trying to identify birds singing in the background of a movie…just sayin….

    • Thanks for the advice, Kim 🙂 And Forrest is notorious for identifying bird songs/calls in films. That darn Red-Tailed Hawk seems to be everywhere, doesn’t it?

    • Mary Hobein

      Indoors doesn’t work unless you have no windows! As for TV and movies, wait for the complaint that the birdcalls on the soundtrack don’t actually match the bird on the screen (“That’s not an eagle’s call — that’s a hawk!” or “No way you would hear that bird THERE. That’s way out of its territory.)

  6. Jeni Lannen

    I love your birding life stories! By the way the Sandhill Cranes out at my friend’s pond just hatched the eggs two days ago! I thought of you and Forrest.

  7. So well put! Can’t wait to forward it to my wife, she’s going to laugh! Forrest married the right girl! 😉

  8. Toni Linberg

    This.Is.Hilarious!!!! Ahahahaha! I’m the girlfriend of a fellow Nikon Birding Pro Staffer (Matt Wetrich) who shared this with me as we both laughed because this is totally us! 😀 Spot on!

    • Toni, thank you. It’s nice to discover that other non-birders experience the same things that I experience with my crazy birder – best of luck to you 😉

  9. Ron

    Saw a link on a friend’s FB post and read this post….wow, I thought birders were just nerds! Now I know a bit more about birders…and if I ever see a Cowbird, I just might give it a little nudge off its tree branch…damn murderers.

  10. Brendan McGarry

    Man…excuse me, Woman. I haven’t laughed this much about birders in a long time. Thank you.

  11. Dave Irons

    I know this guy…wait, I am this guy!

    • There are a lot of you, as I am finding out! And behind each one is a woman whose head is tilted slightly with that infamous “Huh?” look on her face 😉

  12. So insightful and funny. I’m a birde’rs wife as well, and I love birding myself. I don’t take it to the same level my husband Paul does though. I won’t go to a dump and spend endless hours aging gulls! One day I hope we get to meet you. I’m sure you are as amazing as your writing. Forrest has obviously chosen well. Tell him Anita & Paul said hi. iLife the BADD acronym. You should market it! It will catch on!

  13. Oh my goodness I loved reading this. I can’t wait until your next installment. Maybe on your honeymoon you could record some of your dialogue, I would love to hear BADD firsthand.

    • Oh, the honeymoon will make for some interesting conversation for sure. He frightens me when he drives/birds at home, so I have no idea what it’s going to be like while on the OTHER side of the road. More to come, I am sure 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Tori! Hope the wedding goes smoothly and beautifully today!

  14. I married a non-birder, best thing I ever did. Early on she diagnosed the BADD and gave me the “act normal, and do that with your own people” look every time I had an episode. Now I function well in mixed company, a heck of a lot of people have no idea about my weirdness. She helped me get better tuned to bird song, I mean you have to if she won’t stop to look at a bird during a hike…admittedly it is hard to get exercise if you stop for every single bird. Although she should have told me we were hiking for exercise, I though we were going just to watch birds? I even got better at identifying birds naked eye while playing (binocularless) with the kids at the beach, and you have only a second to watch before the Frisbee hits you on the head, so you really got to get good fast! I could not have become a high functioning BADD sufferer without my non-birding spouse.

    • Oh, Alvaro, you make me laugh. It’s funny that you mention hiking because we went on a 6 mile hike outside of Livingston yesterday, and man – let me tell you – I got some great material for my next blog post 😉 On a side note, Forrest tells me that you are a wonderful person and that several of your field guides and articles are resting on our bookshelf about five feet away from me right now – I’m honored that you read my silly little blog. Take care!

  15. This sounds very familiar except we are double trouble b/c we both bird.

  16. I am soooo lucky that we both bird. My brothers and friends still get mad when I drift away when they’re speaking…wait…what’s that at the feeder? I gotta go…

    • Dave, I’m getting used to it! I love learning, so being with Forrest is a wonderful thing – I learn something new every single day. I identified a White-breasted Nuthatch outside of our window yesterday and had that KA-CHING moment when Forrest came over and said, “Yeah! Nice job!” Y’all are a little crazy, but I like it – it’s a good crazy 🙂

  17. I’m the one afflicted with BADD while DH is my long-suffering spouse. Our son had a rough first semester in college, so when we brought him back after winter break we’re standing outside his dorm, exchanging hugs and advice, and in the middle of a sentence I break off with, “Holy shit, what’s a Black Vulture doing in Ithaca in January???”

    Easily distracted by birds, that’s me.

  18. Inga La Puma

    Thank you for this! It was hilarious and so true.

  19. At last…I know I am not alone. My husband sent me this link. (He’s got it BADD). It’s extra funny when you reproduce. A typical Saturday morning at our place: My daughter (9) yells from the couch where she’s reading, “Mom! Come look! There’s a Hairy Woodpecker! on the feeder” My son (7) bangs on the window by the feeder outside my husband’s office yelling “Shoo Starlings!” Meanwhile, my husband is on the front porch photographing a Sphynx moth. Did I mention he’s a bug man too? Double BADD. It’s just like I dreamed it would be . 🙂

    • I love that. If and when we ever have children, that will SO be us. Thanks for sharing that little anecdote with me so I know what I’m in for later on 😉

  20. I found birding and nature photography after I was widowed. It gave me a new life and friends when old friends- couples- moved on. I have BADD pretty bad. My friends at work make fun of me all the time asking about Brown Boobies. I try not to be a menace on the road but sometimes it’s hard. Come visit Cape May County, NJ we have GREAT birds. Loved your post. Will follow Best regards, Beth

    • Beth, your comment warmed my heart; thank you for reading. Forrest actually worked at the Cape Henlopen Hawk watch for three seasons – isn’t Cape May right across the way? We know several people back east, and it would be a pleasure to meet you when we visit again!

  21. Dianne C.

    Maybe you mention the shifty eyes in another post? I KNOW people wonder why I don’t look them in the eye but I just can’t help myself when I catch a flit out of the corner of my eye! I really should be more respectful, but wait, maybe THEY appreciate being made more aware of what is around them! Oh what the heck. I know I won’t stop ever!

    Hilarious post. Thx!

  22. Pingback: Blog Birding #141 « ABA Blog

  23. Dr. Bernard Master

    Susan and I read this together. We are still laughing.
    Bernie Master

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