Birding, Bird watching, whatever we call it, should the hobby of birding be on topic to TGO?

Edit: I removed link to the originating question, because I realize the quality (or lack thereof) of that particular question is muddying things.

5 Answers 5


I think this question is clearly on-topic.

The bigger question is whether animal-identification questions should be on-topic. If so, then this is a simple animal-ID question, within our scope. I don't see how one could argue that animal identification is off-topic, it's often quite important to be able to tell animals apart (and plants, for that matter) - "How do I tell a (relatively safe) king snake from a (deadly) coral snake?" "If I see bear dung, how do I tell whether it's a (fairly docile) black bear or (aggressive) grizzly/kodiak?", etc.

  • 3
    Grizzly dung has bear bells in it and smells like pepper spray. Mar 18, 2016 at 19:06

I also believe that animal, plant, fungi etc identification questions should be on topic. For me, knowing or learning about the nature that surrounds me is an integral part of being outdoors, not only for safety reasons (such as being able to tell dangerous and harmless animals apart), but out of curiosity, and something that for lack of better term I would call a thirst for knowledge. I do not see any good reason to restrict this site to just physical outdoors activity. I believe that "mental" activities such as animal or plant identification, that pretty much have to take place outdoors, should be allowed here (unlike questions like "what is the name if this fish that is in the fishtank in my friends living room" or "what kind of cactus do I have on my window sill" or "what are these little white worms in the bag of flour in my pantry", which clearly do not belong here).

The two main problems regarding animal/plant/rock/fungus/... identification questions IMHO are:

  1. Do we have experts that will be able to answer them? We have some people very knowledgeable in number of outdoors topics, but I am not sure how many botanists/zoologists/mycologist etc do we have here.

  2. Are there any other sites that would be more suitable for such questions? There is a Botany proposal, there were already several Mycology related proposals that all died slow death from lack of interest (by the way, in the discussion for one of the recent Mushroom Hunting proposals, some people voiced an opinion that most of the questions that were proposed for that site should be on topic in Great Outdoors), there is a Biology site in public beta, however that is described as "site for biology researchers, academics, and students", so I am not sure if simple owl call identification would be on topic there.

As far as the question that prompted this discussion, I think it is a good one, since it does not actually ask about specific animal identification, it is basically asking "what resources are there to help identify an owl call", and I think answers to such question could be useful for many outdoors people, even though the actual recording of the call in this question was not made somewhere in deep woods or swamps.


Birding is definitely on topic here, and welcome. In June of 2015, this discussion about growing our user base, and attracting a wider variety of topics, specifically mentions birding. The few questions that came as a result of that were well received, so I agree the community as it stands now is supportive of bird-related questions.


Well unless there is a lesser, birdier, or higher out doors then yes. Anything not specifically organized as an outdoor 'sport' or interest should be TGO topic. compartmentalizing is a dangerous problem. Sailing should be a separate group as there are too many people that have seen videos and claim to be experts that are guiding people into a life threatening situation.


To me, "The Great Outdoors" means being in some way physically active outdoors. While I'm sure there is much to enable bird spotting that would come within this definition, e.g. being outdoors in wild places, bird spotting itself I would consider off-topic.

Obviously there are times when animal identification might be important during outdoor activities, @Kevin gave examples in his answer,...

  • How do I tell a (relatively safe) king snake from a (deadly) coral snake?
  • If I see bear dung how do I tell whether it's a (fairly docile) black bear or (aggressive) grizzly/kodiak?

... however, the key difference in these examples is that animal identification has some use beyond just identifying the animal for the sake of identifying the animal. It is being used for the purposes of keeping safe in The Great Outdoors.

The original question that prompted this discussion seems to have no link to the Great Outdoors that I can descern other than the recording was made outside.

  • I would venture to say it should be off-topic; I agree with Graham.
    – studiohack
    Feb 29, 2012 at 23:36
  • 2
    Driving a car to a campsite and sitting in a camp chair all evening isn't physically active, should we reject camping questions unless they would help someone who hikes ten miles to their camp site?
    – Kevin
    Mar 1, 2012 at 0:59
  • Speaking of car camping: meta.outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/60/… Mar 1, 2012 at 1:39
  • @Kevin would you consider driving and sitting in a chair on-topic here or be likely to generate interesting and useful questions? I fail to see how spurious scenarios like that help us decide if bird spotting is on-topic for The Great Outdoors.
    – Graham
    Mar 1, 2012 at 11:21
  • @Graham As the consensus in the car camping question indicates, car camping is on-topic. Just sitting around may be a slight exaggeration but car camping doesn't really need to be as active as you seem to think we should require.
    – Kevin
    Mar 1, 2012 at 18:12
  • @Kevin I'd consider camping (even car camping) being active in the outdoors, but I still fail to see what it has to do with bird spotting.
    – Graham
    Mar 1, 2012 at 19:52
  • 3
    @Graham It seems your argument is that bird watching shouldn't be allowed because it's not physically active enough, I'm saying it's no less active than car camping, which you do agree should be allowed, so that argument doesn't hold water.
    – Kevin
    Mar 1, 2012 at 20:01
  • 2
    My thoughts on this: 1 -- The original spawning question is not relevant evidence for or against the idea of birding in general being off-topic 2 -- "Not active enough" seems elitist to me. 3 -- "Not active enough" is a vague standard likely to be inconsistently applies (as Kevin shows). Net -- I do not thing "Not active enough" is a standard we can objectively apply. Mar 2, 2012 at 4:16
  • @RussellSteen it looks like the community has spoken (which is good!), but just to be clear, "Not active enough" is not my words, they are Kevin's. What I said was "in some way physically active", be that camping, walking, paddling or whatever with no mention of a minimal level. My suggestion is that bird spotting and identification, in and of itself, is not a physical activity albeit you may need to be physically active to purse it.
    – Graham
    Mar 2, 2012 at 14:10
  • @Graham -- Didn't mean to put words in your mouth, sorry about that. I do see what you mean about the distinction. Mar 2, 2012 at 14:14
  • 2
    The topic is so clearly on-topic. It's The Great Outdoors forum, and animal identification is integral part of hunting, camping, hiking, biking, trail running, canoeing. Feb 24, 2013 at 23:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .