Rockjumper Tours

aba events

The Rise of Young Birder Clubs

Much has been written of late about the decline of “joiners.” The problem is especially acute, it is said, with young people.

To be sure, many commentators have remarked on the near absence of today’s young people from bird clubs, state ornithological societies, and bird conservation organizations.

13-1-12-05 [teens at conference]Is that true? Is it really the case that young birders aren’t “joiners”? Chad Williams’  article in the Jan./Feb. 2013 Birding (“Birding Beyond Your Binoculars: The Story of a Young Birders Club,” pp. 48–53) suggests otherwise. In his article, Williams describes the recent successes of the Indiana Young Birders Club (IYBC), an organization of young birders, by young birders, and for young birders. The IYBC is not alone. The Iowa and Ohio young birder clubs, to name two others, are importantly mentored by ABA Board members Carl Bendorf and Kenn Kaufman, respectively.
Left/front to right/rear: Teen birders Robert Reynard, Kathleen Seeley, Lukas Padegimas, and Rachael Butek unwind at the Ohio Young Birders Conference–2011. Photo by Chad Williams.

Needless to say, young birder clubs present to teen birders a splendid mix of opportunity, education, affirmation, and wonder.

Young birder clubs also challenge the broader birding community. How do organizations for “grownups”—including, if we’re honest about it, the ABA—interact with and nurture young birder clubs? Perhaps just as important, under what circumstances are we to back off, and let young  birders do their own thing?

13-1-12-07 [community project]And what of the question of legacy? How should adult birders transmit knowledge and wisdom about such matters as fieldcraft, bird conservation, and the birding culture? Or is that the wrong approach altogether? Should adult birders instead open themselves up to insights, and even paradigm shifts, from today’s young birders?

Left to right: Alexis Walden, Kasey Lasley, Cassidy Branagan, Victoria Byrne, and (front) Libby Hignite have just completed a bird conservation project at the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary in Connersville, Indiana. Photo by Chad Williams. 

Let’s address these questions honestly. One thing’s for sure: We’re all friends, and, ultimately, we’re all in this thing together.

A request, regarding a potentially touchy matter: As you weigh in on these questions, would you be so kind as to say how old you are, at least vaguely so (“I’m in high school,” “I’m in the 18–44-year old demographic,” “I’m so old that I’ve forgotten more than you know,” etc.)? Oh, and if your answer to that question is “I’m in high school,” then we really want to hear from you!


The following two tabs change content below.
Birding Magazine

Birding Magazine

Birding magazine is the flagship publication of the American Birding Association
Birding Magazine

Latest posts by Birding Magazine (see all)

American Birding Podcast
Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
Read More »




ABA's FREE Birder's Guide

via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Open Mic: How to talk about climate change as a young birder June 4, 2018 11:37
    One of the challenges in talking about climate change is the disconnect that people feel when hearing about things like sea level rise and their daily lives. Birders, young and old, can play a major role in bridging this gap. […]
  • Meet Teodelina Martelli, 2018 ABA Young Birder of the Year May 26, 2018 2:27
    Meet Teodelina Martelli, a 17-year-old homeschooled birder living in Thousand Oaks, California and one of the 2018 ABA Young Birders of the Year. […]
  • Meet Adam Dhalla, 2018 ABA Young Birder of the Year March 27, 2018 5:42
    Meet 12-year-old Adam Dhalla from Coquitlam, British Columbia, one of the 2018 Young Birders of the Year! Want to learn more about how you could be the next Young Birder of the Year? Registration is open for the 2019 contest now! ——– Q: Were you a birder before you started the ABA Young […]

Follow ABA on Twitter