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.