Kalaiyarasi D, B. Optom

Optometrist, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India


Have you ever looked into the evening sky, amazed at the flock of birds heading back home? Have you got to see the careful nesting of these tiny architects in the trees? It is a great pastime and hobby for many, looking at and observing the colorful and brilliant creatures – the birds. We call them – the bird watchers or rather the birders! Bird watching is done either as a hobby or for understanding the avian species from a scientific standpoint. It is expected that the birders should have good vision to be able to capture the reasonably small beings. However, there are visually impaired and blind birders across the world who happily set out for birding. Let us discuss the various techniques that are used by the visually impaired birders in this article.

Birders travel across to different areas and try to find and observe the different birds in the area. They generally observe the features of the bird’s body, feathers, their beaks and not to miss, their melodious songs. The first and foremost requirement for any birder is a pair of binoculars and spotting scopes to get a view of the aviators at distance. Secondly, a ‘field guide’ book specific to the area of birding is carried along which helps to spot out the birds and identify their features. (1)

Instead of binoculars which narrows the field of view further for the visually impaired, video cameras with good magnifying options are said to be a better option to locate and observe the birds. It is also said that birders who are visually impaired take help of other birders or guides who can see to locate the birds by pointing by hand or using pointing lasers. (2)

Birders who are blind, use their sense of hearing to recognize the sounds of the birds. There are several guides available both as audio records and braille for the blind birders.[2] There are elderly people who are avid birders, looking at the birds visiting their backyard. While age related changes start to affect their vision, it becomes difficult for them to view their visitors (birds). However, innovative techniques to enhance or magnify the location of the bird feeders in the backyard onto a screen are of great ideas, as benefited by this elderly woman in the picture below (Figure 1). (3)

Figure 1: An elderly birder using a magnifying device to look at her bird feeder in the backyard.

[Image courtesy: https://madisonaudubon.org/blog/2019/1/2/16/assisting-visually-impaired-birders]

The sport of birding is exciting and adventurous and doing it with low vision is more adventurous and requires a lot more skills.



  1. A basic bird-watching equipment checklist. Cala Mia Island Resort. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://calamiaresort.com/a-basic-bird-watching-equipment-checklist/
  2. Birders who are blind or have low vision. Birdability. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://www.birdability.org/birders-who-are-blind-or-have-low-vision
  3. Assisting visually impaired birders. Madison Audubon. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://madisonaudubon.org/blog/2019/1/2/16/assisting-visually-impaired-birders