Five Things ABA Members and Other Birders Can Do—and Should Do—During the Ongoing COVID-19 Emergency
March 12, 2020
by Ted Floyd—Editor of ABA's Birding magazine
First things first. We at the ABA are taking this seriously. The COVID-19 emergency is affecting all of us in ways that go well beyond our lives as birders. As students, parents, neighbors, and more, we are part of a global civilization that is bigger than the American birding community. That said, we are firm in our conviction that our actions as birders are relevant to the present situation, and that, with appropriate caution, they might contribute positively in these stressful times. Here are five actions that we ask you to consider:
1. Go birding! At least as of right now, there are no restrictions in the U. S. and Canada on ordinary movement by individuals and small groups in most public open spaces. And if such restrictions arise, consider birding from your home. Every single one of us can tell a story of a good bird, or even a great bird, found right around home. eBird, iNaturalist, and all the ABA’s online resources are functioning normally—and we expect them to continue to do so.
2. Check in on other birders. Do you have a birding friend who has trouble getting out of the house or assisted-living facility? Leave groceries or a care package at the front door (and state in advance that you are doing so). And although visits to assisted-living and other facilities are increasingly restricted, think about picking up the phone for some good-old-fashioned unhurried conversation.
3. Carefully heed the advice of state and local authorities. At this writing, probably most of us have been affected in one way or another by a cancellation—a concert or sporting event or worship service, etc. If you are involved in planning birding events, as so many ABA members are, please acknowledge the consequences for public health of large gatherings of birders.
4. At the same time, also consider that both birding organizations and local communities are going to be seriously strained by the ongoing emergency. Birders can have positive economic impacts through endeavors other than social activity. We at the ABA are always grateful for your financial support, and we encourage you to support other birding and environmental organizations as well.
5. We’ll get through this! Our lives as birders are already being disrupted, and it seems likely that additional disruptions, potentially severe ones, are imminent. If anyone is more disappointed than you, it’s the event organizers and others who promote so much good for birding and society. Be patient, be flexible, be reasonable. Sooner or later, we’ll be birding together again.
Ted Floyd is the longtime Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives with the ABA. Ted has written 200+ magazine articles and 5 books, including How to Know the Birds (National Geographic, 2019). He is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and has served on several nonprofit boards. Join Ted here for his semimonthly spot, “How to Know the Birds,” celebrating common birds and the uncommonly interesting things they do.
Love this post Ted. Schools have started closing here where I live, the grocery store has been picked clean of toilet paper, paper towels, soaps and disinfectants but birds are everywhere and I plan to be out with them as much as I can.
Great article, Ted! Also, keep in mind that isolation does not mean that you have to stay inside. Most of us know wonderful birding locations that are perfect for social distancing. Six feet? Try 600, or 6000!
Hi Ted! It’s Mark Wilson from high school. It’s made my day to discover this article and what amazing stuff you’ve been up to. I am teetering between a planned trip this weekend to Australia and New Zealand and just accepting Covid 19 and birdwatching here in Texas for a week. Hope you’re well.
Seeing the Cedar Waxwing as “bird of the year” gave me a real pang; normally by this time of year, flocks of them have come to strip my berry bushes. Not this year; I’ve had NONE. No familiar high pitched whistles, no crazy antics flying off in a flurry. I live in N. California, past Sacramento. Has anybody seen any around here?
Thank you for this wonderful article. This is one of the few things, besides hiking, we can safely do in the situation we are now in. I have both MS and a rare neuromuscular disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth. i now use a power wheelchair. I just talked to my doctor’s office this morning and was informed it would be safest for me to not be in any situation where I would be exposed to large groups, such as church, restaurants and other events where large numbers of people would be present. But I can “walk” my service dog, go birding by… Read more »
I encourage birders to stay home—go birding within a day’s drive and return to your own home. I live in South Texas. We do not need people from around the country here at this time. We will desperately need you after the crisis. Then restaurants and hotels will appreciate your patronage. Right now, the locals do not need to be competing for sanitizer, water, bread, cheese, etc, etc. Go birding–in your home state!! Later, we can all travel the world.
Very well-considered advice!