By Irene Middleman Thomas
DOUG WOOD, A Costco member and professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State
University, recalls how, at 23, he became a
birder. “I was on a grad-school ornithology
class field trip, and I saw several male indigo
buntings in a bush with the early-morning sun
striking them. The vivid blue hues of the males
was just stupendous. I thought, ‘I could get
used to seeing that for the rest of my career!’
And I haven’t stopped looking at birds ever
since. I’m a global birder and travel the world,
watching species that never fail to amaze me.”
An estimated 47 million people in the
U.S. are birders, according to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. Birders are all ages; you can
find clubs especially for ages 12 to 19, such as
the Young Birders Network ( ebird.org/con
tent/ybn), and for all ages, such as those listed
on the American Birding Association website
Bird-watching is important for conser-
vation and awareness. BirdLife International,
a 130-member nonprofit global partnership,
based in England, strives to conserve birds,
their habitats and global biodiversity, and
works with people to support sustainability
in the use of natural
resources. According to
birdlife.org, one out of eight birds across the
globe is threatened, with up to 200 species
facing imminent extinction. Habitat loss,
invasive species, pollution and, increas-
ingly, the effects of climate change have
resulted in the decline of birds everywhere.
“We hope, by bird-watching, people start to
pay closer attention to the need to protect
our environment and the habitats both
birds and people rely upon,” says Nicolas
Gonzalez, media relations associate for the
National Audubon Society.
Bird-watching is a
Becoming a bird-watcher
• The Audubon Society recommends
getting a good field guide—one that has pictures of each bird and maps of their range—
and studying it.
• There’s an app for that: The Audubon
Bird Guide app ( audubon.org/apps) is available for download on i Tunes and Google Play,
and includes more than 800 North American
bird species, thousands of photos and more
than eight hours of recorded birdcalls.
• Watch nature programs on TV, such as
the BBC’s The Life of Birds series (available on
DVD and i Tunes).
For a fascinating introduction to bird
reproductive behavior, read Into the Nest:
Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting and
Family Lives of Familiar Birds, by Laura
Erickson and Marie Read (Storey, 2015; not
available at Costco).
• Read books such as The Big Year (Atria,
2005; not available at Costco), or cheat and see
• Next, you’ll need a good set of binoculars or a telescope.
• Finally, go outside!
Where and when to go
You’ll typically see more birds in natural
settings like preserves, wetlands and parks,
and often there is more activity at dawn.
Kenn Kaufman, a Costco member, leads
birding and nature tours on all seven conti-
nents, and is a nature writer, as well as the
author of more than a dozen books and field
editor for Audubon magazine. “For year-
round bird-watching,” he says, “the lower Rio
Grande Valley, around McAllen, Texas, is the
single best location in the USA. The sheer
abundance and variety of birds, the mix of
eastern and western species, the many sub-
tropical birds that live near the border and the
vast number of migratory birds that move
through the area all combine to make this
region endlessly exciting for bird-watchers.
“And if the birding ever gets slow, this is
also the best spot in the USA for finding a
wide variety of butterflies.” C
Irene Middleman Thomas is a Colorado-based writer.
The Costco Connection
Binoculars, telescopes, cameras, birdseed,
birdbaths and more can be found in warehouses and on Costco.com. Books on bird-watching are available in most warehouses.
Up in the sky!
It’s a bird!
A birding event at
Genessee Park, Colorado.
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video from the American Birding Association.
(See page 15 for details.)