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Experience the birding boom in DC, Maryland and Virginia

You don't have to go far to see many varieties of birds in the DC region.

WASHINGTON — An old-school hobby is making a comeback and it's popular in the D.C. region. 

Birding is a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family with little investment. You don't have to drive far from home to plan birding trips. We asked Tykee James, the president of the D.C. Audubon Society why he loves birding.

"To me it brought a sense of responsibility to build trust, to build connection, to build coalition and to build power," James said. "Often when we're out birding, we're seeing the conditions of the land and we're connecting the history of the habitat with the history of the community." 

Birders not only use sight and sound to identify birds, they also use behavior. James explained how that's done.

"It's literally what is the bird doing? Is it just sitting there perched? That's a behavior. Is it jumping around in the tree? That's a behavior. Is it pumping its tail? That's a behavior. Is it messing with other birds? That's a behavior."

Birders can share their sightings and pictures with other members of the community in online forums. Most birders are very dedicated to birding and always on the lookout, like Maria Elena Montero.

"I always knew what birds were around me. I grew up in Takoma Park, where there's a lot of trees and a lot of backyard birds. I just became more curious about birds that I wasn't seeing as regularly," she said. 

James says sometimes there's a moment or a certain bird that can ignite your passion.

"There's something that happens where you can't get it off you," James said. "Something turns on. Something sparks your interest, we call it a spark bird. That's the bird that gets you into birding. For me it was a belted kingfisher."

There are more than 18 million birders in the United States. It's popular. And D.C. has some great places to plan a birding excursion. We asked James for his top three spots.

Topping his list is Kingman & Heritage Islands, which sits in the shadow of RFK Stadium.

"It's a really great city park. You get to see a lot of the river, as well as some dense forest. You can get a lot of mix of water birds and shore birds while also getting warblers and woods songbirds."

James said he's also a big fan of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Anacostia Park.

Birders can also check out Huntley Meadows Park and Brookside Gardens.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a boom in birding. Most parks were open through the pandemic lockdowns, and it was a safe way to socialize with friends and family.

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