My New Book


A Plea To Birders

I posted this on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m going to add it here as well.  There was a segment on the Katie Couric news show about the Great Texas Birding Classic and while I think it’s awesome that birders were in the news and equally awesome that most of those birders were wearing Swarovski.  However, I did see something troubling.

Just watch 10 seconds of the video.

Birders (or bird watchers if you prefer), for the love of Pete, when a news camera is on you: DO NOT IMITATE BIRD CALLS.  No one wins when that happens.  I’m sure your black rail call is awesome and brings all the rails to the yard, but really, it will not help bring more people to the fold. I can’t think of one non birding person who would see that and think, “Yes, that rocks, I don’t know what birding is, but I’m going to do it right now!”

I think young kids will watch that and think, “Holy crap, is that the sort of people who are outside in the woods?  I’m staying in with my video games where it’s safe.”

I get asked to bird calls by the media and I refrain, it’s easy to do.  Really, you can say, “no.”  You can tell they think they will get the funny sideshow factor in their segment by asking you to do it and I’ve seen more than one reporter aghast at my refusal but then you see something in their eyes, perhaps something new–respect.  I kindly offer to do bird calls with my iPod Touch, but I refuse to do it with my lips (okay, maybe I’ve whistled the two note black-capped chickadee call, but that’s it–I’ll give you a pass on a chickadee–but no soras, no blackbirds, please for the sake of humanity, don’t do a puffin).

So, please.  If we want to keep birding (according to Katie) the second most popular hobby, stop doing bird calls on tv and the news!

Thank you.

16 comments to A Plea To Birders

  • Amen Sista – I’m glad I’m not the only one that felt that way watching that clip!

  • Right said. I thought the sme thing. WHY do they always do this? Yes, I see the kiddies running inside. Computer geek better than bird chirping geek. :|
    I did see a lovely Green Heron this afternoon.
    Still saving for my digiscoping attachments. Love your photos.

  • He he he! I’ve never done that, except when the killdeer are “talking” to me, I will talk back in their language. I often whistle at the birds when I’m taking photos because I want to get close to them without making them think I’m stalking them like a predator. But, I don’t whistle their songs.

  • far worse in my view is saying the weird little phrase someone in the 18th century thought a bird call sounded like: tv footage of bird singing, cut to birder saying something utterly ridiculous (which sounds very little like the call) like “Mrs Falstaff’s corrrrrrsett burrrrst*??” over and over again. These little phrases can help those really keen to learn song but a) there is no reason not to use a more uptodate phrase and b) it looks absolutely bizarre to a casual viewer.

    *fictional bad example but not too exagerated.

  • PS that may be more of a british issue?
    PPS its not so much the phrase thing as the choice of phrase and the excessive annunciation and enthusiasm it is said with that makes it cringish. just saying something like “its call sounds like “who cooks for you”" is no bad thing….

  • I agree the geek factor is running rampant in this video clip but I don’t know too many young kids that watch the news. Side note: is wearing your bins on one shoulder considered gangsta’?

  • Don’t imitate bird calls unless you are this lady Only then is it cool!

  • Totally agree. When I saw the video clip I said, “Boy, that’s weird! It is nice to know I was not alone. It has been a very very long time since I hear any one in the field do bird calls. Thank goodness for Ipods and birdJam.

  • I understand the concern and I agree that some people should keep their bird calls to themselves. However, this video definitely captures the true excitement that us birders have when we’re out looking for birds!

    Idaho_birder: I second your post! That woman is amazing!! Bill of the birds just wrote a blog on her:

  • Ben

    Does this mean we shouldn’t demonstrate the tail bob of a Palm Warbler on TV either?

  • Only if you have the booty to back it up.

  • Ben

    Is that a dare????

  • Ron

    Couldn’t agree with you more. I cringed when I saw/heard “Ms. Kikidoo” do her call. How uncool to a potential, young birder.

  • jake

    I’m glad to see people embrace their geekiness. I don’t see how acceptance from mainstream media would help birding much less the birds…seems like it would be the opposite: overcrowded ‘hot spots’, habitat destruction, fees, and more difficulty seeing good birds. People who would truly appreciate it and respect it will find it and not be swayed by silly superficial pop media reports. No offense, but is this about love for the birds or hopes for personal financial gain? Science and nature are cool. Sugarcoating it isn’t.

  • I’m not exactly clear on what you are trying to say with your comment. Are you asking if the Great Texas Birding Classic is about personal financial gain? It’s not, it’s about raising money for habitat in that awesome birding area. Are you asking if I’m about personal financial gain? I make no bones about that–my stated goal is that I have been trying to find a way to get paid to go birding since 1997 like lots of other people before me–people who work at WildBird, Birder’s World, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Victor Emmanuel Nature Tours, David Sibley, Kenn Kaufman, Field Guides touring company, anyone who works for an optics company…

    And we can’t rely on people to “just find it” when it comes to birds. Birding needs to be promoted in a positive way and not something that one’s grandmother does. If just finding it were the case, we wouldn’t a need for books like Last Child In The Woods and we wouldn’t have the drastic decline in other areas of outdoor recreation like fishing and hunting.

    The mainstream media loves to focus on the traditional Jane Hathaway birding stereotype rather than focus on the other types of birders–like birdspot or Jen Brumfield or the guys at 10,000 Birds or Bill Thompson.