Birding the Net: A New Way to Experience Birds

Something transformational happens when you learn a bird’s name. Suddenly, your backyard garden becomes a critical spot for feeding or nesting. Your local park reveals itself as a rest area for birds migrating from as far away as Argentina. And your favorite hiking trail in the hills comes alive with species competing for food; with mating rituals; and if you watch a little carefully, shifting populations.

Nature becomes so much more fascinating when that tiny flash of blue on a tree branch becomes a Cerulean Warbler which migrates thousands of miles each spring; when that speck in the sky becomes a Peregrine Falcon, one of the fastest creatures on earth; when “OMG, look at that giant bird crashing into the water!” becomes an elegant Brown Pelican, whose populations were threatened by the Gulf Oil Spill.

I didn’t come to my role as president of Audubon as a birder -- but after a year in I look at the sky -- and at any landscape -- with different eyes. Once I learned the names of birds, I took the first step into a vibrant world, where natural things are connected both locally and across continents. At Audubon, we think that taking this step is such an enriching experience that we’re helping people simply have fun with Birding the Net.

We’ve let birds loose all over the Internet, and we're challenging people to find them on websites such as AOL, Slate, Discovery Channel, and more than 100 others. And to encourage people to dig deeper to find virtual birds, we’re offering a pretty sweet list of very real prizes.

Our hope is that by interacting with this innovative social media birdscape, people will view birds differently the next time they go outside.

We work hard to help people get their Audubon on, but in reality, America is constantly demonstrating its love for charismatic creatures with wings. From Angry Birds to our national symbol to the names of pro sports teams, birds are everywhere in our culture and our hearts.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1 in 5 Americans is a birder. This is not some quirky hobby outside of the mainstream, but one of our most popular pastimes -- second only to gardening.

It's a fact: few non-human animals are more mainstream than birds. They’re one of the few forms of wildlife that you see every day.

If you were to encounter the same people every day, you’d eventually introduce yourself. And that usually starts with learning names. You can start with Audubon’s Birding the Net and you can take the first step into a new world. I can tell you from experience it'll change your life.

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