When Did You Fall in Love With Birds?

More than 500 of our members recount their earliest or most special birding experience.

In February, we asked some of our most loyal members (who had opted to participate in our Donor Insight Panel survey) to recall their earliest or most special experience birdwatching. Along with highlighting a diverse array of species, many of our supporters also pointed to the people in their life who first introduced them to birds. In total, more than 500 Audubon members shared their personal stories.

We enjoyed reading about the thrill our members felt when they used a field guide to positively identify a bird for the first time, accompanied their mother, father, or another family member on bird walks out in the woods, or joined a local Audubon chapter for a day of birding. Many of our members spoke about their own innate interest in nature and birds. Regardless of how they came to love birds, our members sure have a way with words.

Going through all the stories brightened our week and immersed us in the incredible network of Audubon members working tirelessly to protect the birds we love. Here are seven of our favorite memories:

Brown Pelican Nestlings
Brown Pelican. Photo: John Adolph/Audubon Photography Awards

"My most special birding moment was watching young immature Brown Pelicans tag team fishing (two diving at once to increase likelihood one would get a snack) in Little Shark River in the Everglades. The Laughing Gulls would land on the backs of the pelicans waiting for an opportunity to steal dinner from the pelican's bill. The pelicans maneuvered the fish to the back of their mouth to slide down their throats giving the gulls nothing." —Meredith R., Milton, Georgia

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow. Photo: Johann Schumacher/Audubon Photography Awards

"I built a birdhouse with a small entrance hole for wrens, but in early spring Tree Swallows tried to get in but couldn't. So, I enlarged the hole and successfully attracted a pair of Tree Swallows." —Tom F., Muir Beach, California

Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak. Photo: Farrell Steiner/Audubon Photography Awards

“We lived in this apartment, and my mom had attached a shelf feeder outside of a window in our living room which faced east. This is in the early 80's. In the mornings I would get up, and the sun would be shining through the shade and I would see the silhouettes of Evening Grosbeaks at the feeder. It fascinated me. Sometimes I would peer around the shade to see them only inches away, or even open the shade and wait for them to come back when that startled them off. I didn't know they were an irruptive species then, I probably haven't seen one in 30 years. I'm changing that soon, I use eBird frequently and decided to see where they are spotted in my state and I'm going to go see some.”  —Matt S., Brighton, Massachusetts

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker. Photo: Justin Schmidt/Audubon Photography Awards

"Filling my aunt's feeders I saw a Pileated Woodpecker and was amazed. How had I lived 20 years and never noticed birds?" —Gretchen B., Berea, Kentucky

Killdeer
Killdeer. Photo: Pat Ulrich/Audubon Photography Awards

"I became interested when in elementary school and self-discovered plastic model birds in our local 'five and dime' store that I could assemble and paint. I grew up on the High Plains of western Kansas and we had very few colorful birds. So the models were a window into the bird world not available to me in my environment. However, I still love Western Meadowlarks and Killdeer, vocally and visually." —Arlene H., Salt Lake City, Utah

Tree Swallows
Tree Swallow. Photo: Charles Holton/Audubon Photography Awards

"Amongst other things, watching my 4 year-old goddaughter topple over backwards after becoming mesmerized by swirling masses of low-flying Tree Swallows in fall migration reinforced my belief in the importance of reaching children as early as possible. Getting adults to change their ways, no matter how compelling the reasons or the evidence for it, is much more difficult." —Joel M., East Marion, New York

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee. Photo: John Pizniur/Great Backyard Bird Count

"I was introduced to birding by my maternal grandmother. She lived in the country, we learned to feed the chickadees sunflower seeds from our hands on her front porch in the Adirondacks of Central New York state." —Cynthia P., Dauphin Island, Alabama

If you are interested in participating in our Donor Insight Panel Survey, please email Great Egret Society Manager Lindsay McNamara at greategretsociety@audubon.org for more information.

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