Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Birding Ethics: Politics & Birding

Politics and birding has been on my mind a lot recently.  It is nearly impossible just to focus on the fun of birding and birdwatching without falling into politics eventually.  I've been birding with folks who are very vocal about their politics.  I've also been birding with folks who tip-toe around issues because they were too afraid to say what they thought; not knowing where I stood politically.

It is generally assumed that if you are interested in birds, then you "obviously" advocate conservation, and therefore must lean toward the Democratic party because "we all know" that liberals care far more about the environment than the "greedy earth-destroying capitalists" on the Republican side.  This erroneous assumption might lead one to believe that all birders have the same position on issues like healthcare and abortion.  Let us never assume and lump birders so generally into one camp or the other.  A hobby involving 50 million Americans has more diverse opinions than that.

I personally love to discuss politics and the internet is a great forum for discussing them.  Principle-based debate is healthy.  It is appropriate and important to discuss public policy as it relates to conservation and the well-being of birds.  I appreciate peaceful extremists on all sides of issues because they are necessary to maintaining the balance of the universe.  They help educate us and improved behavior is usually the result.
We all may not be cut from the same political cloth, but we need each other to complete that beautiful patchwork quilt that is America.

Please just indulge a pet peeve of mine:  While we are out birding together in the field, let the love of birds unite us!  Let's leave the political talk for more appropriate forums such as this.

Now let's go birding!


  1. Thank you for this post. I appreciate your thoughts on this subject. I knew getting into birding that I would encounter those who have opposing views to my own, regarding politics. Let me say that so far, I have only run into those who've been kind to me; but on the other hand we haven't brought up politics. My hope is that fellow birders will continue to treat me with respect, even when that difference is realized. I Love humans and animals and enjoy the company of one, whatever their political views, while watching and learning about the other. I hope we can unite in our love for birds and not let our diverse political opinions ruin such encounters. Blessings, Kathleen

  2. @Kathleen - thanks for your comment which also gave me links to your blogs. I have added your bird blog to my blog roll on this site. The vast majority of the people I bird with are folks of the highest quality and politics never comes up. I suppose this post is for those vocal few who assume that I think the way they do and they rip on politicians and principles that I happen to support. I am happy to engage in the debate, but not while we are out looking for birds!

  3. Even political slants on issues can come off heavy handed in blogs and birding magazines. The Living Bird Magazine has had a rash of letters to the editor over an article praising the election of President Obama. I guess sometimes when you are reading about birds, you just don't want to feel uncomfortable.

  4. You won't hear any political talk from me. When I am out birding I am too focsed!

    Have you heard of Big January? Will you be participating? It's a bird count/friendly competition to see how many species you can see in your own state in the Month of January. I first heard about it from Larry of the Brownstone Birding blog. He is challenging me to the contest once again this year. He beat me in 2008 and I beat him in 2009. We start at midnight! I ebird all my results. In fact, I learned about ebird from him.

    Happy New Year either way. May it be very birdy for you!

  5. @Kathiesbirds - I love good friendly birding competitions. Are you challening me too?!

    Though unspoken, I have sensed a bit of a rush here in Idaho to have the first set of County Big List species. The first couple days of the year often lead to 60 - 90 species by some folks. I am really hoping people in Idaho will enthusiastically jump at the eBird competition I have put out there. eBird is a great and important tool for all of us across North America.