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Birders of Many Feathers


Jun 01, 2021

The Outdoors is for Everyone, Everywhere

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This week – May 30 to June 5 – marks the 2nd annual Black Birders Week, a series of nationwide events focused on increasing the visibility of black birders while celebrating cultural diversity in bird watching, bird feeding and nature-related research.

This rapidly growing event was created by American ornithologist, Corina Newsome, who helped bring to light challenges Black bird watchers face as they commune with nature, including underrepresentation and racism. Black Birders Week also focuses on a younger, more diverse audience who have recently taken up bird watching. This new generation has been joining the bird watching ranks, drawn by the discovery, science and joy of being outside, though with concerns about being welcomed and feeling safe in outdoor spaces. Birding, after all, is the observation and passion around one of the most diverse classes of animals in the world – full of different colors, sizes, shapes and behaviors.

As fellow birders, we applaud and support this effort. Reaching out to underrepresented audiences, especially in the younger generation, is vital in raising the popularity and profile of birding, as well as conservation efforts for habitat and species preservation. How exciting it is to see children, teenagers and young adults on a bird walk, feeding them from their home or just being outside with a pair of binoculars.

“Reaching New ashutterstock_1031702722_kidbinoculars2nd More Diverse Audiences for Conservation,” a study by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership, says we have work to do. It found that many of the younger, urban, multi-cultural population consider themselves birders, but also have the least participation in the hobby. We need to commit to understanding cultural differences, age group differences, physical limitations and social dynamics if we are to be successful in engaging underrepresented groups.1

Black Birders Week represents this broader call, and we don’t have to go far to find a successful example. Locally, the Washington, D.C.-based group, Brown Girls Climb, brings together those seeking inclusive and accessible opportunities for women of color. They have redefined what a climber looks like and who is considered “outdoorsy.” Their accomplishments are readily seen as Brown Girls Climb now has 40,000 Instagram followers and eight chapters across the country. 2

Birding is a hobby for all people, races, nationalities, creeds and gender; its only requirements are a common interest in our feathered friends – and maybe a pair of binoculars!

1http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/annualmeeting2014/1_FriPM3_100_AmberYoyi_Diversity_min.pdf

2 ”Scaling the Walls,” The Washington Post Magazine, May 23, 2021