Monday, August 15, 2011

Birder Profile: David M. Bird Ph.D.

David M. Bird Ph.D.
Baie d’Urfe (near Montreal), Canada
How did you get into birding? 

As a professor of wildlife biology at McGill University, I had tunnel vision for raptors all of my life; all other birds were merely hawk food. However, I also enjoy educating the public about birds, writing a weekly and now monthly column on birds for the Montreal Gazette for over 25 years. One day I was bird-watching with some now famous ornithologists in Tempe, Arizona during a conference and I saw a male Anna’s Hummingbird with the neon pink gorget doing a ritualized mating flight. I was so blown away that I wrote in my next column that I would no longer be a raptor bigot.

How long have you been birding? 

For about 20-25 years

How often do you go birding? And where do you regularly go birding? 

I always keep an eye on birds in my yard and I live on the water, so I see loons, terns, ducks of all kinds, etc. I am not one for going out every weekend, but I regularly take my university students out birding for Ornithology. And I have hosted/led a number of bird-interested folks to various countries, e.g. Kenya, Costa Rica, Belize, etc. I especially love leading neophyte birders into the field.

Where is your favorite place to go birding?

Ile Bizard Municipal Park with its boardwalks in a marsh has long been a favorite, but now the McGill Bird Observatory only a mile from my campus is the tops.

Where in Quebec would you say is the most under-birded place that may have great untapped potential? 

The northern part of the province, e.g. Ungava Bay

Most exotic place you've gone birding? 

Australia and Tasmania, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Ellesmere Island

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, a “chaser”, “ticker”, “twitcher” all of the above, or something else? 

I can be all of these things, depending on the moment.

What kind of birding equipment do you use? 

I love my Swarovski 7X32’s and my Swarovski scope.

How do you keep track of your bird observations?

I do not have a life list per se. I usually tick off the birds I see in my field guides or on checklists which I keep. I am afraid to keep a serious list because I am fairly competitive and I cannot afford to become a chaser.

What is your favorite bird sighting and what is the story behind it? 

The spark bird above is one. Studying white Gyrfalcons (my favorite bird) on Ellesmere Island for the summer of 1973 is another. Seeing my first wild Peregrine on Cape May was very special…I recall my exact words shouted out….”I knew it was a peregrine!”

What is your favorite backyard bird?

Dark-eyed Juncos are pretty cool. Not everyone gets to see a loon in their backyard.

Which birding publications do you read and recommend? 

Obviously I am biased as a columnist for BWD, but I have to say that this magazine is pretty classy!

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I have used them all, but I must confess that the one I always grab on the way out are the Sibley's.

Which three books from your personal birding library would you recommend to other birders? 

Again I am biased. The Bird Almanac that I wrote and compiled in 2004 is a highly useful book for birders of all kinds. Hard to choose the other two….too many good books out there.

What is your education background in birds? 

Got my PhD in 1978 from McGill University…I have been a professor in Wildlife Biology specializing in birds all of my life.

What future birding plans do you have? 

Moving to BC in a year or two….looking forward to seeing new birds. The Dipper is my favourite songbird and I see them regularly when I fly-fish in Fernie, BC visiting my son.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations?

I used to belong to all of the major ornithological organizations and now only the AOU, Wilson, the Raptor Research Foundation (served as president), and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists (served as President recently). Served on the board of the ABA for 9 years.

Anything about your family you’d like to share with us? 

My wife, Toni, likes to watch birds when I take her out. Same with my two grown-up kids.

Outside of birding, what are your other interests or hobbies? 

Boating and fishing of any kind, tennis, ice hockey, badminton.

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us? 

Once mistook a white shopping bag impaled on a Lundy fence as a snowy owl in front of others…..quite embarrassing.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about? 

I like to find humour in just about every situation and I do not mind being the center of attention at times….I find it extremely easy to talk to strangers.

Your mission in life as birder? 

To introduce neophytes to birds and birding and education the “great unwashed” to conserve wildlife.

Come meet Dave in person and listen to his presentation which will be both educational as well as entertaining at the Midwest Birding Symposium, Sept 15-18 in Lakeside, Ohio.

Birder Profile is a weekly blog segment at "Birding is Fun!" spotlighting a fellow birder.  If you would be interested in sharing a little about yourself and your birding experiences, please send me an email.  Is there a birder you'd like to see featured?  Please nominate that person by sending me an e-mail too.  Enthusiasm for birding is the only prerequisite!

1 comment: