Added: Jeryl Stetson - Date: 28.04.2022 17:44 - Views: 29309 - Clicks: 1680
On the surface, birding might seem like neutral ground—an activity that any curious, nature-loving person can enjoy, regardless of age or gender. Go on a hike with your local ornithological club and at least half the attendees will be women. Many of us keep on despite frequent put-downs and hostility, enduring dismissive comments about our knowledge and in the worst cases, sexual harassment.
Not even a year-old can bird in peace without commenters attacking her abilities and life list. Like most matters of importance, women have been integral to birding from the get-go. Female ornithologists drew attention to avifauna in the late s, and suffragists helped the movement take off in the early s. Today, 42 percent of U. Personally, female birders have run my world ever since I picked up a field guide in college. My ornithology professor was a woman.
My boss at Audubon is a woman, as are most of my colleagues throughout the office. My birding circle is mainly members of the Feminist Bird Club. And yet men have the loudest voices and the most power in the industry. The closer you get to the top of the birding, conservation, and academic ranks, the more the gender balance tips. At Audubon, for instance, the membership is 72 percent female, but the executive staff is 75 percent male—and the organization has never had a female president in its years.
This pattern persists industry wide. They dominate bookshelves, festivals, competitions, and gear and travel. They build their reputations and livelihoods around the practice and reap the greatest profits.
For birding to be equal, we need more women in charge—and that's a change we're finally starting to see. Judith Mirembe, Kimberly Kaufman, Molly Adams, and the founding members of The Phoebes are just a few examples of women trying to transform the community from its core. The point is to gain parity, educate against prejudices, add new dimensions to the sport we love, and bring men along with us as we try to create a better, safer culture for everyone. The Phoebes, a female-centric birding group formed by members of the Tropical Audubon Society.
Photo: Jayme Gershen. The small sooty-brown flycatcher cues his own arrival with a raspy, two-toned fee-bee that rings out from the woodlands. The female phoebe, meanwhile, keeps a low profile among the branches. Her nest, which she builds on her own, is an engineering marvel: a woven collage of mud, moss, grass, and fur. The founders of the Phoebes first met on a muggy October morning in during a fall-migration walk led by record-breaking birder Noah Strycker, the Tropical Audubon Societyand Leica Store Miami. The women hailed from a range of backgrounds—biology, education, culinary and visual arts—but they felt an instant connection through their shared love of nature and kindred perspectives.
They spent much of the hike along the Biscayne Bay laughing, filling in the pauses between sightings with chatter and queries for Strycker, who responded deftly and supportively. They wanted to build on the collaborative spirit and decided to meet again.
They decided to embrace their own style of birding—one that moved at its own pace, dwelled more on the animals and their environments, and above all, accepted any woman with an interest in Avesno matter her skill or knowledge. But what to call this sisterhood? The name had feminist connotations as well: It paid homage to Phoebe Snetsinger, the driven, whip-smart birder who documented 8, avian species in her fifties and sixties, and Phoebe, a Titan from Greek mythology whose name ifies brightness.
There was the sense that something ificant was happening through us. Fast forward a year and a half, and the Phoebes are on the ground doing exactly what they set out to accomplish. The club converges once a month at different locations in Miami-Dade County, including urban parks and beachside oases. The field trips offer a built-in space for empathizing and networking. Members are encouraged to take breaks to ask questions, work out basic IDs, and revel in the details of any species, avian or not.
A WhatsApp group allows them to keep up the conversation and share personal milestones in between meetups. Both genders go birding with roughly the same levels of interest but with drastically different styles, according to a peer-reviewed study published in The researcher surveyed members of the American Birding Association, 65 percent of whom were male.
They found that men focused more on listing and traveled farther to see rare birds; women, on the other hand, birded closer to home and reported higher personal enrichment. Miami, and Florida in general, is plagued by a slew of environmental issues, from pollution to invasive species to, of course, bird and habitat declines.
Even the monthly birding outings can be a form of stewardship. The Phoebes help compile data on avian migration, breeding fluxes, and behaviors that might otherwise go unnoticed. Which brings us back to the female bird that inspired Hines and her friends to transform their beloved pastime.
History has it that it was the first species to be banded in North America; in John James Audubon tied silver thre onto five nestlings in Pennsylvania, then watched for them to return every spring. The Phoebes also watch for the return of their namesake in Florida every winter. True to form, they celebrate each and every one they find. Photo: Eva Deitch. So in the fall ofshe began the Feminist Bird Club to create a space where women, trans individuals, people of color, and other marginalized groups could experience birding in a protected environment.
The response convinced her that there was an appetite for social activism within the birding community. What started as a series of late-morning and afternoon walks with friends has exploded into an advocacy powerhouse for birders, with chapters in five U. While participation is open to anyone, the goal is to elevate marginalized groups. Take Kasia Chmielinski, for example. The mixed-raced birder, who identifies as nonbinary, wanted to a local group to hone their skills; but the meet-ups they attended were monopolized by men. It feels more inclusive. Adams welcomes cis white men to attend events, too.
On the walks themselves, she encourages anyone stealing the good views or trying to school others to take a step back. For the first two years she covered the costs out of pocket in order to donate every cent of the proceeds. This year, a small grant from the Safina Center, a conservation nonprofit, has helped defray the expense. Still, Adams works tirelessly to get hundreds of them out to donors—a task she assumes on top of her day job as the advocacy and outreach manager for New York City Audubon.
Her efforts have paid off. This year, the money will be split between Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a volunteer organization that helps migrants and refugees safely cross the border from Mexico, and Native Youth Sexual Health Network, a reproductive-resource group led by and for Indigenous youth.
When it comes to choosing where to donate, Adams says that she consults with the other Feminist Bird Club chapters. The count took place during peak spring migration, Adams recalls, and people were excited to see Scarlet Tanagers and Yellow Warblers for the first time that season. Toward the end of the walk, the group also spotted a female Cerulean Warbler. It was much subtler than the flashy male birds—a nuance that both beginner and expert birders could admire.
While Adams is proud of how quickly the club has grown, she wants to encourage members to make their own change. Photo: Esther Ruth Mbabazi. If the little black and white bird appeared in their compound early in the morning, the family would know to expect guests. When she was four years old, they saw a wagtail three times in one week. Even as she was working toward a degree in environmental science, she worried about career prospects after graduation. Well-paying jobs are scarce in Uganda, and the market would be even tougher for her: The unemployment rate for women in their twenties and thirties is more than twice as high as that for men.
Mirembe approached Herbert Byaruhanga, the managing director of Bird Uganda Safaris and her brother-in-law. She began training part time with him to build her birding skills while juggling her schoolwork. Mirembe was armed with the skills and gear she needed, but the odds were still against her. She recruited 10 ladies and launched the Uganda Women Birders club in Over the years, dozens of employed members of the group have helped to teach fresh guides and connect them with tour companies across the country.
The costs of training and gear are largely covered by scholarships and donations. Click each top-selling field guide to reveal the genders of the authors. Uganda Women Birders currently has 50 new and longtime members, 30 of whom are employed by tour groups.
In addition to helping members achieve economic independence, the club is working to change societal attitudes around gender equality by hosting presentations on how female guides can be breadwinners. Support is also needed to get the women through the rigorous training period. After seeing the high dropout rates of club members, Mirembe realized the group needed a more reliable job engine.
So this past August she launched a birding company, Women Adventures Africa, to employ women who trained with the club. To her, the new venture is a way to not only earn a living from birding, but also contribute to avian research and conservation. Like the Uganda club, Kenya Women Birders supports 50 passionate members, including university students, tour operators, leisure birders, and guides. Kimberly Kaufman, director of a research observatory, co-founder of a migration festival, and adviser to a youth-science network.
She looked at the slate of all men sitting on stage before her, and then at the gathered crowd, where she recognized several women with deep knowledge of local species. The simple query generated a shocked response because Kaufman had questioned a long-standing norm.
But not at the Biggest Week in American Birdingthe annual festival in northwest Ohio that Kaufman co-founded 10 years ago, and especially not last year. This year 5 of the 11 speakers are women. She grew up on a farm in northwest Ohio, where she spent her free time poking through nearby woods, swamps, and marshes.
She soon began volunteering with the state wildlife agency to monitor Bald Eagles nesting near her home. Unsated, she trained as a bird bander and worked as a researcher at BSBO. There she had several masterful female mentors, but at conferences she was often the lone woman in a group of men. But she found that her knowledge far surpassed that of the average bander, thanks to the high volume of birds she handled at BSBO, and that realization gave her the confidence to assert herself when men tried to dismiss her.
Using these moments to start constructive conversations is important, she explains, both to establish female expertise and to prevent further indignities.
Her approach has boosted many young birders, especially female. While Kaufman is thrilled to see women gaining prominence and is dedicated to doing her part to elevate them at the Biggest Week and beyond, she stresses the importance of supporting anyone with a birdy passion—female, male, or transgender. Membership benefits include one year of Audubon magazine and the latest on birds and their habitats.
Your support helps secure a future for birds at risk. Our newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives. Staff Staff Board Director. Birding for Solidarity: The Phoebes Eight women decided they had enough of the sport's competitiveness, so they created a community to lift their sisters up. Birding for Social Change: Feminist Bird Club Molly Adams wanted everyone to be treated fairly, so her club builds justice into its mission.
Then Donald Trump was elected president. Birding for Economic Empowerment: Uganda Women Birders Judith Mirembe faced uphill odds as a bird guide, so she's training others to break into the career. Birding for Respect: Biggest Week Kimberly Kaufman noticed all-male lineups at festivals, so she headlined hers with expert women. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates. How you can help, right now.
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