Birding for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers

If you’ve spent much time at a birding festival, belong to a bird club, or just page through a birding magazine you’ll notice something: nearly all birders are White. Considering how diverse bird species are, it is a shame that more minorities are not part of this fun, energizing hobby. Not only that, the lack of minority groups in birding means less bird conservationists, something that is truly a shame.

John C. Robinson decided this was a shame too, and his book Birding for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers, he lays out the groundwork to help increase the ranks of minority birdwatchers.

Mr. Robinson, himself Black, explains how he became a birder and how he went birding in West Virginia with two White birders who had “never met a Black birdwatcher before.” We can understand where they are coming from, having never had the pleasure to bird with a Black person and rarely with any other minority group except Hispanics in southern Texas.

Birding for Everyone is a pioneer work that helps to explain some reasons why this hobby is predominantly White. There is data from research conducted by the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment. Unfortunately, the sample size is small – which is understandable otherwise we wouldn’t need this book – so some of the results might not be as statistically accurate as we’d like.

However, Mr. Robinson’s research goes further with detailed interviews with six minority birders (arguably another small amount) who explain how they became involved in birding and ways they’d increase birding’s appeal to minority groups. The information they provide is vital to help us better understand where to begin in promoting birding to minorities.

Birding for Everyone is full of important information about the role parents and teachers play, the importance of community and advertising (promotion), and the necessity of role models and mentors to help welcome minority groups into the world of birding.

“The National Science Teachers Association has a membership of over 55,000. Imagine the impact this organization could have if they embraced teaching their students about the environment for future generations. Such a strategy is consistent with the mission of the NSTA, which is ‘…to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.'”

The book expounds on the ways we can help enhance birding for all people, but it doesn’t end there. We must all be up for the challenge, so check out this book and then get to action. Birding truly is for everyone and anyone can be a birder.

9 out of 10 feathers

7 thoughts on “Birding for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers

  1. I hadn’t even thought of the white birder thing until I read this post, but it’s so true! I only remember one non-white person in my life who had any interest in birds at all. Strange, that…

  2. I did not know that birding was a racist thing. We have folks of all types birding in North Dakota.

  3. Lana – This isn’t something we’ve thought about either until reading the book. I’ve heard Pete Dunne and Kenn Kaufman discuss this sort of thing as well.

    Rick – You may have missed the point. Birding/birders aren’t racist. There is just a lower number of minority birders comparatively speaking to the population breakdown. This book discusses possible reasons for this and ways to ensure all people are welcome to become birders.

  4. I am an African American birder, and have always loved birds and nature. My father had a love for birds and nature and made sure that he shared that with me. I became part of a bird group after a trip to the local Wildbird Center who shared about a local bird group. I attended one meeting and have never looked back. My experience has been a pleasant one, and birding has become so much more enjoyable. It is my favorite thing to do. I have never met an African American birder any where, and had begin to wander if they existed. I’m glad that Mr. Robinson has so graciously brought attention to this in his book. It is very encouraging.

  5. I am an african american female who is trying to connect to some birders who watch eagles. I live in Baton Rouge And would love to meet some people with similar interests.

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