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Birders Contribute in Many Ways

The president of the American Birding Association stands up for rank-and-file birders, Andy McCormick reports.

By Andy McCormick

In February I went birding in Massachusetts on a three-day rally with the American Birding Association. We were in the Plymouth and Cape Cod areas and did some great winter birding.

It was good to meet birders from another part of our birding community and share ideas about birds and their habitat, and also about working together to help protect the environmental factors that support birds.

Western Tanager, by Mick ThompsonDo Birders Do Their Part?

On the final evening of the rally Jeff Gordon, President of the American Birding Association, gave a presentation on the environmental work the ABA is doing. He mentioned that some birders can be critical of other birders for not doing enough to support the environment.

In defense of birders he listed many things that birders do to support wildlife. I thought it was a good list and got his permission to share it with you here. With some edits I’ve made to the format, here is what Jeff said:

Jeff Gordon: In a Facebook discussion recently I read this assertion: "Of the many birders I know, only a handful do anything for conservation!"

It is a charge one hears from time to time and one that I think must be answered. After all, if those of us who derive so much pleasure and meaning from birding don't give back, or aren't seen as giving back to the birds and habitats we love, if we don't lead by example, how can we as a society at large do so?

Here is how I responded:

"[I'm] not trying to be confrontational, just comparing experiences. But apparently you and I know very different birders.

        • The birders I know are typically members of and/or donors of time and money to a number of conservation or environmental nonprofits.
        • They direct a large percentage of their disposable income and leisure time to birding, which is a very low impact, high benefit use of those resources.
        • They pay refuge and park entrance fees and generally follow a 'take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints' ethic.
        • They also support local businesses based in and around birding areas.
        • They take the welfare of birds and the environment into account when they visit the ballot box, which many of them do at virtually every opportunity.
        • Many fundraise through birdathons and/or volunteer to lead walks or programs for local schools and civic groups.
        • A growing number enter their sightings into eBird and have participated for years in Christmas Counts, Breeding Bird Atlases, and other monitoring or citizen science efforts. Not only are they typically not paid for these efforts, it generally costs them to do so.
        • Many birders I know worry endlessly about their efforts towards recycling, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, and landscaping.
        • They drink shade grown coffee, keep their cats and other pets indoors or on leash, try to reduce bird deaths caused by window collisions, improve their backyard wildlife habitats, and do what they can to encourage their friends, neighbors, and communities to do so, too.

“All this, and yet they are sometimes stereotyped as doing nothing for conservation.

“Sure, I've met a few birders who seem not to care about any of these things nor make any of these efforts. But they're very, very rare.

"I guess what I'd ask you is this: If birders aren't doing anything for conservation, who is?”


Well said, Jeff. Thanks for your leadership of the ABA.

Photo: Western Tanager in a Woodinville Back Yard, by Mick Thompson

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The mission of Eastside Audubon is to protect, preserve and enhance natural ecosystems and our communities for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people.