Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Birders Movie Poster Image
Docu about bird watchers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 37 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about bird migration.

Positive Messages

Animals know no borders. No matter how small, every animal has a reason for being on this planet.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border volunteer to help maintain habitats that support migratory birds.


Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Birders is a 37-minute documentary about mostly migratory birds and the people who watch them and try to protect them. The nature photography is beautiful, and the colorful birds and habitats photographed at the Texas-Mexican border are lush, which might make this a nice introduction to birdwatching for younger kids. The movie notes that birds know no borders, a seeming jab at the politics behind building a border wall to keep human refugees out of America, but no further point is made.

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What's the story?

BIRDERS visits various spots along the migratory corridor that birds use as they make their way south or north during migration across the Texas-Mexican border. Some volunteers place ID bands on birds to help count and identify them. One Mexican birder laments that they used to see far more American birders but now, "They don't come because of insecurity," and the movie offers no explanation as to what that means. Enthusiasts photograph the birds, watch them, or act as guides to those coming to visit the habitats. Several people note that it's important to maintain habitats that can sustain migrating birds in their travels. Others repeatedly observe that animals know no borders and that building a border wall, as the American administration has set as a goal, will destroy lots of wildlife habitats. Birds such as Northern Water Thrush, Northern Cardinal, Green Jay, and the Hooded Oriole are identified, as are many bird songs.

Is it any good?

This documentary is peculiarly content-free, but kids will love the gorgeous visuals. With no narration, no narrative arc, no tension, no real warnings, or prescriptions for how to save birds or their habitats, Birders meanders. Different people say the same things over and over. At one point we find ourselves in a National Weather Service office looking at clouds of migrating birds on a weather map. No real point is made about this. Among the repeated messages: a wall wouldn't be good for migratory birds, that animals know no borders, that the migratory corridor along the south U.S.-Mexico border hosts millions of birds going both ways as they travel to good weather and sustaining food sources at different times of the year. 

The nature photography is lovely -- closeups of owls hooting and long shots of hawks seeking prey. The music of birdsong is far more riveting than anything said by any of the humans in this movie.   

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of natural habitats for animals. What can we do to make the earth a safer place for migrating birds?

  • Birders shows families watching and counting birds together. Do you think that's a good family activity for bringing attention to environmental issues? What else can families do together?

  • What is your favorite bird? What do you know about its migration pattern? How could you lean more?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love documentaries

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