Birding when You Have a Disability

I gave up birding years ago, due to my physical disabilities. I had not put anything on my life list since 2013. But yesterday I decided to start birding from home by looking at current, live web cams. I also started adding to my life list again.

I do not pause when trying to identify birds, since if I were in the wild, I would not be able to do that, so I don’t pause the cam when trying to identify birds. That way I can keep it more natural and challenging.

It has been wonderful…just wonderful. I’m going to bird around the world using current, live cams.


My favorite is the Panama feeder cam.


I can’t typically hear birds (hearing loss) so I 'bird" with Merlin. I can’t usually find them. Birders always tell me they key in on the sound so they know where to look. My ‘directional hearing’ is even worse than ‘sound hearing’ so that’s impossible. I did once find a woodpecker after almost an hour. In winter, so no leaves on trees. I used Merlin to listen to it and play ‘hot and cold’ where it could ID it vs not.

…your way seems far smarter. With a lot less stumbling over roots and brush chasing a sound I can’t hear. :rofl:


I’m not sure what the extent of your mobility is, but a participant in bird walks along San Francisco Bay that I used to lead would bring along a light folding stool and sit on it when we stopped. That was a good solution for her.


I once encountered a man on a trail using a parabolic microphone and headphones. I thought he was making recordings but when I chatted with him he explained that he had some hearing loss and was using his gear to amplify the sounds.

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I am hard of hearing, I am deaf in one ear completely, so I have extremely limited hearing. I have always had this since I was born, so I am used to it, but I have been finding Merlin to be extremely helpful. Since I started using it, my life list has more than doubled! I am so glad you are birding more!


That’s such a cool idea! I also have a disability and I’ve been doing something similar with the Deerfield Beach underwater camera. It never occurred to me to keep a “fish cam life list”. Thanks for the idea!
Bird wise, I got a cheap camera with a telephoto lens. That way I can sit on my couch or a chair in my back yard and zoom in on things that are further away than I could see usually. It has been so fun! I don’t have many life list additions, but I have been really getting to know the individuals that live around my house.


Without knowing what your disability is, have you ever tried a Big Sit? It’s basically a Big Day, but all must be done within a small area. We did a version of that during Covid where the idea was to see who could get the biggest backyard list in one day. I managed to get 50 species, and that wasn’t even during the main migration. I sat outside and watched for flyovers, and scanned the trees in my neighborhood.

I used to know another guy who couldn’t walk well at all, so on the Christmas Bird Counts, he would ask for the driving areas and bird from his car.

One of the people in the bird counts that I compile for, used to be a pretty active field birder, but mobility issues have ended that. She has however, continued as a yard counter for the Christmas & Spring Bird Counts. She gets good lists. Though recently she asked me if getting a few yard birds was really that useful, I explained to her that data from urban areas and neighborhoods comes in almost exclusively from the yard watchers, since the field teams often skip the “boring” areas. Without that data included, we would end up with a rather skewed list at the end. Not to mention the fact that rare birds also turn up in urban areas.