Podcasting has revolutionized the airwaves for millions of Americans, and birders are no exception. I personally have a rotation of eight or so podcasts that I listen to every day to and from work and, frankly, I don’t know how people got along beforehand. Read the newspaper? Boring. Make conversation? No thanks. Podcasts are a lifesaver for the introverts in all of us.
Thankfully, there are a lot of birding podcasts to add to the roster. Some are short; some are long. Some focus on news and interviews; some consist of chatter among friends. Either way, they’re a great way to stay connected to the birding world when you can’t be out in the field yourself.
To find your favorites, though, you'll need the right software. Most iPhone users rely on iTunes or the Podcasts app. Non-Apple phones offer similar apps like Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify. Download any one, then start browsing for individual shows. You can also usually stream episodes from each podcast’s website (see links below)—but that’s more difficult to do if you want to listen on a commute or a run, so try the apps first.
Here’s a list of popular birding podcasts to help get you rolling. (Bonus: They're all free as the wind.)
Every other week; 30-40 minutes
Hosted by the amicable Nate Swick, this podcast is the signature listening series for the American Birding Association. Each show starts off with the “Rare Bird Focus” segment, which recaps recent rarities across the nation, before moving on to interviews with birders or scientists, conservation stories from ABA President Jeff Gordon, or ID boondoggles with other staff.
Author’s pick: “What’s In a Common Name?” - December 14, 2017
Generally every other week; about 60 minutes
Those who know Sharon Stiteler—aka Birdchick—from her blog or from Twitter know just what they’re getting into. Funny, sassy, and sometimes raunchy, Stiteler is joined by her husband, Non-Birding Bill, in rollicking discussions about surprising avian intersections in pop culture.
Author’s pick: “Birdchick Podcast #205 - Necrophilia, Jobs, and John Hamm” - March 1, 2016
Daily; 2 minutes
The mission of this daily (yes, daily!) podcast is to tell “vivid, sound-rich stories about birds and the challenges they face.” And the episodes certainly accomplish that. Each bite-size vignette is a vacation for the ears, perfect for momentarily forgetting you’re stuck in rush hour.
Author’s pick: “Hakalau Forest National Refuge, with Jack Jeffrey” - February 24, 2018
Every other week; about 60 minutes
For an international perspective, try this India-based podcast. Host Shoba Narayan is a journalist and author with a wide variety of interests, and her podcast likewise tackles different cultural corners with birds as the common theme. She interviews Indian birders and American scientists, discusses conservation, and does travel-heavy segments on particular destinations.
Author’s pick: “Shashank Dalvi’s ‘Big Year of Birding’ Across India” - May 4, 2017
Monthly; about 60 minutes
Bill and Steve (they can’t disclose last names with all the rabid fans) are two western New Yorkers with a knack for narrating nature documentaries. Their podcasts revolve around them dropping encyclopedic knowledge on a species as they look for it in the wild. They don’t always find the creature they’re after (birders know the feeling), but everyone has a good time searching with them.
Author’s pick: “Ep. 25 - The Eastern Screech-owl” - February 2, 2018
Monthly; 5 minutes
Many birders know Brit Bo Beolens by his nickname, FatBirder. He’s prolific internet genius and author (I love his book about the people behind the common names of birds, “Whose Bird?”). His rant-y, rambly anecdotes about birds, birding, and other nature topics adapt just as well to sound bytes.
Author’s pick: “GOB 99 - Tree Huggers and Tree Muggers” - January 6, 2018
Weekly; 5 minutes
By far the longest-running program on this list, Laura Erickson has been talking about birds on the radio since 1986. She’s a true renaissance woman: In addition to podcast host, she’s a teacher, biologist, wildlife rehabilitator, editor, columnist, and author of eleven books. On her show she shares stories of Minnesota and birds from around the country.
Author’s pick: “Eagles and Tennyson’s Poem” - November 19, 1986
Weekly; 30 minutes
When I started listening to podcasts in 2006, a search for “birds” in iTunes would bring up just one show: Ray Brown’s. Broadcasting from the WATD station in Marshfield, Massachusetts, Brown curates a lighthearted mix of adventures and information. I won’t play favorites, but this is the only podcast to regularly feature yours truly as a guest, so you know Brown’s got good taste.
Author’s pick: “#664 - The beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk and more.” - February 18, 2018
Monthly; 30 to 60 minutes
“This Birding Life” is the flagship of the Bird Watcher’s Digest podcast lineup, which also includes “Out There with the Birds” and “The Author’s Spotlight.” Hosted by witty and engaging editor Bill Thompson III, the series covers topical news and conversations with famous birders and scientists.
Author’s pick: “Episode 76: Noah Strycker’s World Big Year” - January 24, 2018
Every Thanksgiving; 60 minutes
The "Poultry Slam" isn’t its own show: It’s an annual holiday series produced by mega-popular radio spot “This American Life.” The stories involve fowl that’s alive, cooked, or just sad and dead. The slams aren’t as full-on birdy as the other endorsements on this list, but you’ll love them anyway.
Author’s pick: “Poultry Slam 2007: Still Life with Chicken” - November 23, 2007