Yoon Lee and other members representing their school’s Bird Club.

Spotlight on teen member: Yoon Lee

Yoon was walking through the outside breezeway on his high school campus one day in early 2020 and caught sight of an Anna’s Hummingbird buzzing by to perch on a nearby tree. This was the moment, he recalls, having his interest in birds re-ignited. Just a few weeks later his school campus was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Just as spring of 2020 was beginning to emerge, birds singing and tulips sprouting, schools and businesses were closing their doors. Before the pandemic, Yoon was always busy with school, extracurricular activities, and home life. And then it all paused. Like many of us, Yoon discovered a deeper connection to birds and nature, just by slowing down. He had recently received a camera from his grandfather and he used it as his excuse to get outside. He took the camera to drive around Seward Park, and on long wanderings through his neighborhood, noticing and meeting previously-unknown birds and neighbors alike.  

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Bald Eagle, Song Sparrow, and Killdeer | Photos by Yoon Lee

That fall, with remote learning still ongoing, Yoon joined Seattle Audubon’s Young Birders program, a teen group that meets monthly to share their interest in birds, and hear from guest speakers who work in conservation and wildlife fields. He liked getting to know other teens who enjoyed learning about birds as much as he does 

Young Birders at Discovery Park | January 2022 | Photo by Elizabeth Cameron

During virtual learning one day, Yoon was joining class from his bedroom and a Song Sparrow struck the window. He recalls being startled, and later saddened by seeing the imprint left on his window. Not too long after, he rescued a Black-headed Grosbeak that had been injured after a suspected window collision, though it died from its injuries after being delivered to the PAWS Wildlife Center. He started to wonder about the hazards that birds face from an average American house. He began researching the issue and discovered Seattle Bird Collision Monitoring Project, one of Seattle Audubon’s community science projects. Yoon and his mother quickly got involved as volunteers, monitoring specific buildings in Capitol Hill and the UW campus to look for evidence of a collision in the form of dead or injured birds. He remembers how challenging it was at first, but got a lot better at finding birds hidden in the bushes over time. He also gained an appreciation of studies like this one.  

Yoon volunteering as a Collision Monitoring Volunteer, walking a route on the UW campus looking for signs of bird-building collisions. 

Yoon says:

“The decline in birds is pretty big. People can change this. There is still hope. We need individual action, but also systemic solutions to solve the problems [that birds face].”

So, in addition to his volunteerism, Yoon continues to advocate for birds and wildlife in his community in other ways. Last year, several Seattle Audubon volunteers and staff, including Yoon, met with Seattle City Councilmember Lewis to encourage the Seattle City Council to take city-wide measures to decrease rodenticides (rat poisons that are particularly harmful to birds like owls and hawks) and develop a “Lights Out” program to reduce light pollution, which impacts migrating birds. Yoon spoke about the important role that birds play in his life, and the lives of other young people in our community.  

Yoon continues to be active on his own school campus. He partnered with other students to create a birding club at his school. He said it has actually been easier than expected to recruit for the club.

“I’ve found that by nature people like birds, and people like animals. For my club specifically, I tell other students that it is fun to have birds around and observe them.” 

The club hosted an on-campus workshop for 15 students on preventing bird-window collisions, which included an activity to make window stickers. He is also collaborating with the school’s Art Director and administration on a potential project to install student-designed art decals on the windows of the art classroom, where a Varied Thrush had hit the window and died earlier in the school year.  

Bird-window collision prevention workshop for students | Photo by Lindsay Orlowski

Yoon out with other teens photographing birds

When you ask Yoon about his favorite bird, he will likely have a hard time answering because he has so many. The American Bittern, closely followed by the Green Heron, because they are interesting, strange, and non-conventional. He enjoys how hard they are to spot and how rewarding it can be when you finally spy one hidden in the reeds. He always goes back to raptors though. He remembers the wonder he felt as a young child watching PBS’s Wild Kratts television show, and how the Peregrine Falcon first sparked his interest in birds 

Green Heron by Yoon Lee

More about Yoon Lee

Yoon is looking forward to attending Cornell University in the fall and plans to study ornithology and environmental studies. For the last two years he has worked on several research projects with Alejandro Rico-Guevara, UW Biology Assistant Professor and Curator of Ornithology at the Burke Muesum, who researches nectar-feeding animals, with an emphasis on hummingbird bill morphology and biomechanics.

Collision Deterrent Products

Take action to prevent bird-window collisions at your own residence or workplace. The Seattle Audubon Nature Shop has a number of products available, and staff and volunteers ready to assist you with application information and guidance 

Join the Collision Monitoring Project as a Volunteer

The Seattle Bird Collision Monitoring Program is currently recruiting volunteers for Spring of 2023 which starts on April 15 and ends on May 29. Volunteers can select a route on Capitol Hill, or monitor their own home or building. Find our more.

Explore other articles in this issue of EarthCare Northwest

Member Lending Library: Birds, Travel, & Behavior 

by Mike Seamans and Shirli Axelrod 

If you’ve never set foot in the basement of the Nature Shop, you may not be aware of the treasure trove of bird books available for our members. Take a peek inside our Member Lending Library, and borrow a book during your next visit. 

Five Destinations in North America for Bird-related Travel 

Recommendations from our members 

Just as birds are in the midst of their spring migration, you may also be feeling the pull to plan your next vacation. Pack your field guide and binoculars and check out one of these great birding destinations in North America to plan your next trip around. 

Make the Most of Nesting Season  

by Dan McDougall-Treacy 

What a joy it can be to observe the nesting and fledging of birds from home. Depending on the species you might be trying to attract, providing nesting materials and nest boxes, and modifying your own garden practices, can set birds up for greater success.