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The ABA’s Spark Bird Project Puts Binoculars in the Hands of Kids

What could a kid discover if they had the tools we birders often take for granted? What could they find?

Birds, almost certainly. But also a welcoming community, a lifelong passion, a purpose that benefits all of us who care about birds and wild places that hold them. But for many kids, access to the tools, the binoculars, that can make all those things available feels impossible. Quality optics are out of the reach of too many nature-minded children.

And the ABA wants to fix that.

Our new Spark Bird Project awards new binoculars to programs, organizations, and curriculums that educate underserved school-age children in the United States in all manner of natural history study, but particularly those involving birds. We believe that being able to get up close and personal with the natural world through quality binoculars will significantly enhance one’s overall experience with the outdoors. With this enhanced view, each child has the opportunity to experience a “spark bird moment”, one with the potential of creating a life-altering event.


Funding for this initiative comes from member donations, partnerships, and sponsorships from people in the birding community who are striving to make a difference in the lives of under-served youth by improving their experiences with nature and the outdoors. Those of you who donated to Dorian Anderson’s Biking for Birds Big Year are already making a difference. The funds pledged to the ABA as part of Dorian’s undertaking have already gone towards the purchase of 40 pairs of binoculars for the Grange Insurance Audubon Center’s Urban Naturalists program, a ground-breaking initiative that allows students from urban Columbus, Ohio, the opportunity to explore a unique inner-city greenspace.


Additionally, donations from ABA members have also allowed us to purchase and donate binoculars to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy in San Francisco, California, both of which received 25 pairs of binoculars to help with programming aimed at under-served schools in their communities. Both organizations are well established, with excellent track records for reaching these children who have not been able to enjoy the natural world as so many of us have. This is just a start. We want to do more.


Our friends at Eagle Optics are also lending a hand. Every time we purchase a pair of Eagle Optics 6.5 x 32 Kingbird binoculars through the Spark Bird Project, EO is donating another pair to us for free. This way twice as many binoculars get into the hands of kids and programs who desperately need them.

The ABA is really excited to be able to share this project with you, and we hope that we can all look forward to wonderful stories of children experiencing nature in ways they would not have been able to do before. All thanks to the the generosity of ABA members and the broader birding community.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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  • Family Birders

    This is an excellent project! I love the idea of donating binoculars to these programs and children. It made me wonder about binoculars that birders may have which they’ve replaced for new binoculars and scopes. Is there a program for donating used binoculars? Are there many out there who may have binoculars that are in good condition but they are no longer using? I know new is best but it just made me think about that since we have similar donation programs for cell phones and other devices.

    • We do! American Birding Association has run Birders’ Exchange for quite awhile. It’s a program that takes used optics, electronics, etc and sends them to researchers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Birders traveling to those areas are used as couriers for the equipment.

      You can find more information about it here:

      • Family Birders

        That is great to know! I did have trouble with the link unfortunately – I received this message, “The web service to this account has been limited temporarily! There is a server resource overage report open for this account in the User area.”
        I’ll try again later. I do love both of these ideas and programs!

        • Sorry about that. We’re working on getting that fixed.

  • Kayla Garcia

    How are the binoculars awarded? Is there an application process for organizations?

    • Bill Stewart

      Since this is a new project, we have researched and received recommendations regarding potential programs that we believed would benefit from receiving the binoculars. Believe it or not, it is not easy to match up the Spark Bird qualifications with the programs. Also, the ABA can only support this program through donations, each Spark Bird Project school/program needs about $1500-$2000 to cover the costs of the purchase and shipping the binoculars. Currently, there is no application process but anyone interested in any phase of this new ABA initiative can contact me directly at [email protected].

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