Is birdwatching one word or two

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!

Based on my survey of major dictionaries, birding authorities and birding websites I found that although there is no definitively correct spelling, the one word spelling ‘birdwatching’ is without doubt the most commonly used. Approximately 72% of authorities surveyed use the ‘birdwatching’ spelling with only 17% using ‘bird-watching’ and a meagre 11% using ‘bird watching.

Survey of various authorities to determine the correct spelling

A survey table debating the spelling of 'birdwatching'.
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.

Online Dictionaries

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.

Major Birding Authorities

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.

Influential Birding Websites

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.

Other Major Authorities

The final survey involved four major non-birding related authorities that have articles written on the topic of birding in general. The four organisations we included in the survey were Wikipedia, BBC, CNN and National Geographic, all of which used the birdwatching spelling.

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