Great Birding Projects


- an approach to bird-related editing, education,    tourism, and marketing


The Dozen Most Important Things You Can Do For Birds and Bird Conservation

Doomsday predictions and personal self-denial are not necessarily the best approaches to addressing our modern bird-conservation problems. To save birds you are not required to slash your wrists. In this talk, Paul Baicich will first identify the five most serious threats to birds today and then outline a dozen modest  - but highly effective - things we can all do that will help birds, their habitats, and, ultimately, their future... as well as our own. It's all understandable, doable, and can lead to a better future for the birds... and us.
Access Matters: Why Birders Should Care  

Is access to birding locations important?  Well, only if you want to see birds!

Increasingly, we birders are finding ourselves shut out of locations or restricted from locations where we once had open access. Many of these are semi-public or private places where we once could bird without interruption - wastewater treatment plants, landfills/dumps, dams, power plants, sod farms, golf courses, and cemeteries, for starters. If anything, things have gotten more difficult since 9/11. Much of this is understandable, but much of this can also be counteracted.  In this talk, Paul Baicich will review some access we birders have had, some accommodation, when it comes to private property and what we might call semi-public property when we pursue birds. This also covers some access issues on public property such as National Wildlife Refuges, BLM land, and Bureau of Reclamation property. Multiple success stories from coast to coast will serve as lessons on how to address the problem and how to make birding more accessible for everyone. Problems and resolutions among those in the hunting and fishing communities will also be examined. 

National Wildlife Refuges: Great Birding Made Even Better  

For Birders, National Wildlife Refuges offer spectacular destinations where birds can often be found in lavish abundance or in spectacular diversity. In this talk, Paul Baicich will describe three things:
  First, a brief summary of the role of refuges in our bird conservation history
  Second, a lengthier journey across the country, stressing some of the most-wanted birds to be found on refuges.
  Third, the ways that refuges are striving to become better birding destinations.  

Its great birding made even better!

Cuba: Birds and the Future

Cuba has 28 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), with over 370 species recorded on the island. Of these 370 species, 27 are endemic to the island, and 29 are considered globally threatened. There is also the migrant factor, and Cuba represents one of the most important countries for Neotropical migrants. There are about 75 species that travel through Cuba and about 85 that spend the winter on the island. There are vast areas of the island that are under protection, but there are also pressures for development and tourism that will impact the birdlife of the island. This becomes increasingly obvious as U.S.-Cuban relations continue to develop. In this talk, Paul will describe the opportunities for responsible avitourism, creative inter-American engagement, and real conservation on the island, all made clear during his multiple trips to Cuba.

Birds in Our Culture
Birds have played an important role in many cultures from ancient to modern and at many levels of intensity. The range of possibilities is vast: painting, music, sculpture, poetry, drama, you name it! Cave paintings, the Bible, Italian Renaissance art, Shakespeare, the conquest of the Americas by Europeans, the very earliest days of the USA, all have included birds as part of their unfolding , all are part of our rich cultural experience. In this presentation, moreover, Paul Baicich will emphasize the role that birds have played in the vision of America, the myth of endless resources in this land, the uses and abuses of wildlife (with a special emphasis on “lessons” on the Passenger Pigeon) and a closer look at recent trends in American culture, from popular literature, to music, to TV, to movies. You will leave with an enhanced appreciation of birds in the context of the grand and the everyday!
The Travel-and-Birding Network in North America: How It Evolved and How It Works
There was a time when bird enthusiasts were limited to searching for a variety of birds within a small area, an unspecified range near home - in a county, state, or region. But this has changed over the decades and within our lifetimes. Today we can find out about rare-bird sightings across North America almost instantly.

More importantly, the locality and habits of birds is today accessible to an interested public, and birders have been able to help each other find "much-wanted" birds across the continent. How has this all happen?

Our speaker, Paul Baicich, will describe bird-finding since J.J. Audubon, with an emphasis on the leading personalities and methodologies used since the end of WWII.  He will also describe how developing your own network of information and "target species" can help you get the most out of birding. He will describe how to find fellow birders to help you see your most-wanted birds.

Looking for Snail Kite in Florida? Yellow-footed Gull in California?  Bluethroat in Alaska? Himalayan Snowcock in Nevada? Little Gull in Ontario? Kirtland's Warbler in Michigan? Baird's Sparrow In North Dakota? It's far simpler today than it was even a decade ago...

Finally, our speaker will describe how you can combine your bird-finding with a contribution to bird conservation, in what Paul considers the best of both worlds.
Feeding Wild Birds in America: A Story Culture, Commerce, and Conservation
Americans have been feeding wild birds for over 100 years, but very few people have followed the history and development of that popular pastime. It's a surprise, since over 55 million American engage in some level of backyard bird feeding.
In this presentation, you will learn how bird feeding evolved, from decade to decade, and you will get insights into little-known stories of feeding development. These include the invention of the hopper feeder, the "discovery" and use of such seeds as black oil sunflower and Nyjer, the creation of the tube feeder, and why hemp (popular through the 1920s) is no longer fed to birds. 

Most importantly, you will learn to connect the past with current developments in bird feeding, including the "top ten bird foods for bird feeding" and the "five steps to double the number of bird species at your feeders."   

The talk will be presented by Paul Baicich, Margaret Barker, or  Carrol Henderson, all co-authors of the recent book - Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and Conservation (Texas A&M University Press, 2015) -  on the same subject.

To order the book, see the information concerning the book at the bottom of this page.

A Shade-grown Coffee Future

You've probably heard about the links between birds and shade-grown coffee. Some coffees threaten the lives of birds; some coffees can actually benefit birds. And millions of coffee-drinkers can make the difference.  In this talk we will take a journey to visit vital points of intersection, a crossroads for birds, agriculture, and people. Here, Paul Baicich explores the shade-coffee/birds connection, focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean and our birds which migrate to the Neotropics. You will leave this presentation with a greater appreciation of the issues and the ability to explain the coffee-and-bird issue to birding and non-birding friends alike!
Rice is Nice: Marketing the Rice-and-Bird Connection

This talk looks into the potential for rice in ways that could highlight marketing a "green" rice connection with waterbirds of all sorts. Since all rice in the U.S. is grown in flooded fields, the crop is "working habitat" for people and birds, for bird species which range from ducks and geese, to shorebirds, egrets and herons, rails, and a suite of wetland-dependent songbirds. There are real lessons in comparing and contrasting rice with other products perceived as either detrimental or beneficial to birds, leading back to the origins of the American bird protection movement. These lessons may provide mutually beneficial lessons for bird conservationists and rice producers alike, and may point a way to engage in an energetic marketing of bird-friendly rice.

To order a bird-friendly rice t-shirt, see the information concerning the t-shirt at the bottom of this page.
What We Owe Our Bird-Watching Foremothers

The parallel efforts of bird watching and bird conservation owe a great deal to two cohorts of our foremothers. The first group began with the origins of bird conservation at the end of the 19th century, the effort to stop the slaughter of birds adorning women's hats and clothing. The second overlapped the original trend and went into the 20th century, providing a creative foundation for bird education in schools across America. By understanding what these foremothers provided the movement for bird appreciation, we can link them to real work we do today. And we're simply better off for it. In this presentation, we will review the two trends and the practical lessons they have for us all today.
Barriers to Birding

Although by 2007, the minority population of the U.S. surpassed 100 million, efforts to involve diverse communities in the outdoors, in natural resources, and, specifically, in birding, have still not resulted in pastimes that 'look like the rest of America.' What are the social, environmental, historical and cultural factors that keep people of various backgrounds from birding, or, for that matter, exploring the natural world?  In short: Why are we so White?

In this talk, Paul Baicich will not only describe the problem as we know it, he will also present five essential ingredients to begin to reach a diverse constituency for birds and for their habitats. By focusing on these five ingredients and activities, birding might be able to make real progress in breaking down barriers to our activity and becoming more relevant to the U.S. of the early 21st century.
Appreciating and Expanding the Federal "Duck" Stamp

The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp has been a conservation institution since the mid-1930s. Designed as a de-facto Federal waterfowl hunting licence, it is much more than that. It is an under-appreciated funding vehicle for National Wildlife Refuge properties and a "free pass" to refuges which charge an entry fee. It is also an institution in a bit of trouble, one which requires some modest changes to adjust to the needs of today's masses of birders and wildlife-watchers. In this talk, Paul Baicich will discuss the stamp's past and its possible future.
Wonderful Waterfowl
North American waterfowl - our swans, geese, and ducks - constitute one of the more interesting and important family groups of birds on the continent. They are found everywhere - at least everywhere there is water or wetlands. They are relatively approachable for study and appreciation. They have provided a sporting avocation to millions of waterfowlers over many, many decades. They have become the center of the longest-running and most successful bird conservation effort in America (and as such, they provide lessons for all conservationists). This talk will not only cover essentials of waterfowl identification, but it will also describe new avenues of waterfowl appreciation and conservation.   

The Amazing Breeding Biology of North American Birds

The breeding biology of North American birds can be characterized and studied in any of a number of ways. In this talk Paul Baicich approaches the subject through the five main categories of nest-structures of our birds - many common breeders, but some rare ones, too. He also reflects on what it is we know and what we surprisingly don't know about our birds' breeding biology.

Attu - on the edge

At the western end of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is Attu Island, the location of a serious battle in WWII and a major birding "Mecca" from the 1970s to the end of the 20th century. At no other single location in North America could one reasonably hope to find a "North American first" virtually at the start of every spring morning. Attu was such a place, and Paul Baicich was fortunate to have visited the island 13 times, mostly in springs. He will explain what it was like birding there and what the experience meant to so many visitors. 
Bird-friendly Design: Green Construction's Next Dimension

An essential and modern 21st century element in bird conservation today is educating the public, especially architects and other construction professionals, about bird collisions caused by buildings and the techniques that can be used to reduce these incidents. 
Every year, it is estimated that hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. due to collisions with glass. Design considerations to minimize glass reflections, fatal nighttime light glare, placement of attractive plants behind glass, and the problem of 'glass corners' are only four of the many ways that birds are attracted to and threatened by glass design. 
There are, however, practical things that can be done to avoid bird collisions and make for better bird-friendly design.

Those attending this talk will learn the following essentials: 
     1. How to recognize hazards to birds in the built environment.
     2. How to identify and apply current best practices in reducing bird collisions.
     3. How to integrate bird-friendly architecture with other aspects of green design.
     4. An approach to understanding existing and potential legislation mandating bird-friendly design.
     5.Finding and utilizing resources on bird-friendly construction, including research reports, case studies, and guidelines.
This presentation is given in cooperation with and in support of the American Bird Conservancy's "Bird Collisions Campaign."