If you are just getting into birding, you may be surprised by the multiple ways that people spell birdwatching | bird-watching | bird watching. I was just as surprised, so since I’ve been starting to write more and more about birding, I decided to do a bit of research to see if there is a correct or most commonly used spelling!
As I was unable to find anything that definitively suggests that any one of the spellings were correct/incorrect, I decided that the next best option was to survey a number of different authorities to see what spelling they use. The survey was conducted on a sample of four top authorities from within each of the following categories: Online Dictionaries, Major Birding Authorities, Minor Birding Authorities and Other Major Authorities.
Dictionaries are an obvious starting point for spelling related discrepancies. In this case, only ‘birdwatching’ and ‘bird-watching’ are really applicable because ‘bird watching’ is essentially two words meaning that you would need to look up ‘bird’ and then ‘watching’. Searches for ‘birdwatching’ and ‘bird-watching’ in the Oxford Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, Macmillan Dictionary and Collins Dictionary gave varied results. Oxford Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary returned ‘birdwatching’ as the correct spelling. Collins Dictionary returned both ‘bird-watching’ and ‘birdwatching’ as the correct spelling and Macmillan Dictionary gave ‘bird-watching’ as the correct spelling.
Other credible authorities are the major bird focused conservation organisations. Of these, Audubon from the US, RSPB from the UK, Birdlife International and Avibase from Canada were selected as the top credible sources. In most cases, these organisations use the term ‘birding’ rather than birdwatching, bird-watching or bird watching. Having said that, all of them do mention one version of the spelling or other at some point in time. RSPB and Birdlife used the ‘birdwatching’ spelling on their websites, whereas we found that Audubon used ‘birdwatching’ and ‘bird watching’ in their content posts.
Four of the most relevant and influential birding websites organisations were selected from Birding Top 1000, a website that tracks the most popular birding website globally. These four websites, BirdForum, Fat Birder, WhatBird and 10,000 birds were selected and then surveyed to determine what version of the spelling they use. After reviewing these sites, it was found that BirdForum, Fat Birder and 10,000 birds all use the ‘birdwatching’ spelling with only WhatBird using the ‘bird watching’ spelling.