Turn outdoor enjoyment into bird knowledge, human connections and wildlife conservation – with a new AND free birding app.
South Africa is renowned for its birdwatching and boasts the largest number of regionally endemic bird species of any African country. With 846 bird species nationally, Natalie and John White saw an opportunity to elevate the birdwatching experience – transforming it from an individual hobby to an inclusive community activity.
John hails from KwaZulu-Natal, and has spent a childhood and more in the bush. “My interest in birds started very early on – inspired by my father’s love for birdwatching,” he says. Now, with his MBA and several years of banking and consultancy experience under his belt, he is following his entrepreneurial heart, which has an indisputable passion for Africa.
Natalie is originally from the UK, but after moving to Cape Town in 2011 she was easily persuaded to love Africa as much as her husband. “The healing power of nature was paramount in getting me through my struggles with cancer. It’s motivated me to do more to protect our natural world, inspire others
to do the same, and leave a legacy for my daughters,” she says.
“We launched our first website and mobile app in 2013, for users to share their wildlife sightings from parks and reserves across Southern Africa,” says John. “Life’s been an epic adventure ever since, and I look forward to continuing it with our new app – Birda.”
The Whites moved from South Africa to England during the pandemic in 2020. After the move, and receiving their first significant round of funding, Natalie and John joined forces with CTO (chief technology officer) Dom Barker – and this is when Birda was born. “Birda is aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature, make a positive impact and be part of an inclusive community that can guide their birding journey. We developed » Birda because we believe nature is for everyone, and nature needs everyone on her side,” says Natalie.
A niche social media app for birdwatchers and nature lovers, Birda turns the discovery and exploration of bird life, and the outdoors, into a game by using challenges, leaderboards and fun badges. “We wanted to create a place to help everyone, from experts to newbies, to discover and learn about the birds around them,” says John. “A marvellous side effect of all of this is that the bird sightings logged by the Birda community are fed to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), where they can be used by conservation researchers.”
And it doesn’t stop there. A species guide that is fully integrated into the app has just been released, so you can now identify birds and log them all from a single app. “We have also recently released our locations feature, which helps our users find good places to go birdwatching,” says John. “Birda is growing and developing really quickly; we’ve got lots of new features in the pipeline.”
5 TIPS FOR BIRDWATCHING BEGINNERS
1. Have a reference guide on hand.
A reference guide assists with identifying the correct bird species. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birdwatcher, having a field guidebook will educate you about the wildlife in your garden.
2. A pair of binoculars is a must-have.
However good your eyesight may be, a decent pair of binoculars can make a big difference in your viewing experience. You can also use a camera with a good zoom – this is a great way to log and identify your sightings.
3. Attract birds by using the right tools.
You can attract birds by using bird feeders, bird baths or nesting boxes. If you don’t have a garden, you can get suction-cup window bird feeders or simply hang one off your balcony.
4. Create a challenge with your family and friends.
One of the most important parts of birding is to be patient and wait, look and listen. However, to make this a more interactive activity, you can set goals and challenges. Try competing with your friends and family by seeing how many birds you can spot in 15 minutes from your window or garden.
5. Download the Birda app for a free and tailored birdwatching experience.
Birda aims to create an inclusive community to experience, enjoy, and protect nature and wildlife wherever you are. Not only does it act as an educational tool Ñ you can also add your friends and family, compete with each other and unlock new achievements through the app. Whether you live in the countryside or in the city, Birda allows users to explore their areas with a location tracker which logs your every step Ñ all you have to do is head out for a walk and look up.