American Birding Podcast



Open Mic: A Birder’s Guide to Everything as an Avenue to Birding

At the Mic: Dave Magpiong

Voorhees Middle School teacher Dave Magpiong is Founder and President of the Fledging Birders Institute and has developed the Schoolyard Birding Challenge which encourages teachers across the country to share the excitement and profound developmental benefits of bird watching with their students. Dave also serves on a national committee for the Bird Education Network and helped create the Pledge to Fledge Campaign, with seeks to encourage birders to introduce birding to the uninitiated. Even more than birding, he savors time spent with his family – often exploring someplace!


ABGTEPosterLater this month, American birders will be provided, once again, with an opportunity to use mainstream culture in a way that potentially “inspires all people to enjoy and protect wild birds.”  The release of “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” (ABGTE) marks the third birding feature to be released in less than 3 years. Birders have the power to make this film a perfect vehicle for communicating the joy and benefits of birding to others in our lives. With a little effort, ABGTE can have a positive impact on the birding community, bird conservation efforts, and, ultimately, the birds themselves.

“The Big Year” elicited mixed responses from birders. As a community, we did not get behind the movie and its box office reflected our collective indifference to the star-filled production. HBO’s documentary “Birders: The Central Park Effect” was well-regarded and highlighted a variety of birding personalities such as Starr Saphir, Chris Cooper, and Jonathan Franzen.  Though incredibly different from each other, both of these movies had a similar result – they piqued people’s curiosity about birds and birding.

Marketing experts, teachers, political campaign managers, and anyone else whose job involves getting people to absorb message will tell you that multiple exposures to the message are critical. The oft-cited minimum number required to deliver a message?  Three.

Enter “A Birder’s Guide to Everything”, a charming independent film that is dropped into our laps – right before spring migration!

After “The Big Year” and “Central Park Effect” opened many people’s eyes to the possibility of birding, ABGTE comes along to potentially open people’s hearts to birding as well. The movie’s main characters demonstrate for the audience how birding can be more than just a hobby. Birding brings people together. Birding lifts people’s spirits. Birding can be a transformational experience.  Many of us already know this but director/co-writer Rob Meyer’s craftsmanship will get this important message across to people who can’t tell a chickadee from warbler.

In a recent exchange about ABGTE with ABA director Kenn Kaufman, he quickly responded “I think it’s wonderful” but he also pointed out that he is biased since he acted as a consultant on it. I think his most important words of endorsement, though, address the ever-present concern that “we” , as birders, are usually portrayed in a foolish light. Kenn explained that “the teenaged birders in the film are treated with respect . . . They’re never ridiculed or made to look like caricatures.”


Director Rob Meyer recently took the time to answer some pressing questions about “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” and how he treated birders in the movie.

Question:  How would you describe A Birder’s Guide to Everything?

 Rob Meyer: It’s a coming-of-age story about a group of teenage birders who set off on a road trip to find what they believe may be a Labrador Duck. It strives to convey the excitement and wonder of birding and the important role nature plays in our lives. It also tackles the difficult reality of facing loss and the awkward excitement of a teenage romance.

Q: Birders often reflect on how birds and birders are depicted in movies and television shows. As director,  could you describe any steps you’ve taken to create an authentic portrayal of birding in ABGTE?

RM:  I worked really hard on this and I had a lot of time to get it right because the film took so long to get made!

First off, I did a lot of birding – with experienced birders in Central Park as well as a few trips with the Young Birder’s Society of New York State. . . .We then had several experts, including Kenn Kaufman and Morgan Tingley, who read the script for accuracy and made changes to it.  Morgan and Kenn also came to set when we were filming any birding to make sure the kids looked convincing.

Finally, we had the Cornell Macaulay Library help us ensure that we got all the bird calls exactly right! This was something that was very important to me. . .

Q:  If ABA (American Birding Association) members were on the fence about whether or not to go see ABGTE, what would you say to convince them the movie is worth their time?

RM:  Hmm, good question.

Well I’d say, first of all, that I feel confident that we filmed the best and most inspiring sequence of young people birding that has ever been put on film. It’s actually one of my favorite sequences. It’s also an interesting film in that it strives to take a lot of the underlying themes of birding and apply them to family, relationships, etc.

And finally, there is a fun cameo by a famous birder in it!

(end of interview)

Does ABGTE reflect birding perfection on the silver screen?  Of course not!  (Then again, does any birding excursion ever achieve “birding perfection”?!)

Yet, birders should reflect on this movie in context of the bigger picture. It is an opportunity to possibly spark an interest in birding for people who may otherwise never be open to it. It is great chance to show people with even the slightest curiosity the real joy and profound benefits that birding has brought to all of our lives. It is a great starting point to open conversations about our local birds, where you can find them,  and, most importantly, their conservation concerns.

Let’s use ABGTE to help the ABA work toward it’s mission to “inspire all people to enjoy and protect wild birds”.

For some more information, feel free to visit . From there, you can view the trailer, learn more about using the ABGTE as a bird outreach tool, and read the entire interview with director Rob Meyer in which he discusses the film and some of his own birding experiences!