Every birder has their own perspective on what it means to connect with birds in nature. While many prioritize chasing life lists, others center their experiences around cultivating relationships. With their new book Birding for a Better World: A Guide to Finding Joy and Community in Nature, authors Molly Adams and Sydney Golden Anderson lay out a vision for how birding can be all of that and more.
This new guide is presented by the Feminist Bird Club (FBC), a New York–based nonprofit organized around the principle that we can celebrate birds and champion social justice at the same time. “I don’t think that birding and conservation can move forward without an inclusive approach,” says Adams, who founded the club in 2016. Since then, FBC has expanded to more than 30 chapters worldwide as it strives to break down barriers that have traditionally harmed and excluded women, people of color, the disabled, and other marginalized groups.
In Birding for a Better World, Adams and Anderson, a former chapter leader, along with their FBC colleagues, have created both a document of their work and a jumping-off point for readers. The book outlines a new framework for birders to reflect upon their relationship with birds, their environments, and the people who share those spaces. After a glossary of terms the reader will encounter (e.g., “leisure privilege”), each of the book’s four chapters explores a big-picture topic: birding basics, making outings more inclusive, existential threats to birds, and building community in nature. The chapters themselves read more like letters from a friend, discussing current issues in birding through personal vignettes, historical context, and concrete steps readers can take to advocate for birds and others, including strategies for how birders can intervene when they see someone being harassed in the field.
The artwork throughout the book is vital to its mission. Adams and Anderson have curated an evocative gallery of illustrations from 19 artists that all speak to the whimsical side of birding. FBC put out a call on social media asking artists to submit work complementing the overarching themes in the book. The integration of art in each section guides the reader through the book on the wings of warblers dispersed between paragraphs and full-page spreads of soaring raptors. “There are so many different ways of communicating how we relate to the natural world,” Adams says. “And I think that art is just as important as text.”
While their names are on the cover, the authors are quick to note that Birding for a Better World is not about them. Rather, it is a demonstration of the power of collective action as people join together to share their joy for nature. As such, each chapter provides journal prompts and pages that invite readers to share their own thoughts and “co-create this work with us,” the authors write. Adams says the book—and the future it seeks to manifest—needs readers to contribute their experiences.
Birding for a Better World is not so much a detailed “how to” guide for birders as a call to all of us who love birds to ask ourselves, “Where to?” Novice birders and seasoned outing leaders alike will find useful tools for reframing their relationship to birding. By weaving together the voices of so many while also leaving room for more, the book envisions a future for birders that is not just intimate and collaborative, but also far from finished.
Birding for a Better World: A Guide to Finding Joy and Community in Nature, by Molly Adams and Sydney Golden Anderson, $23, 160 pages