Birds Connect Seattle table at Summer at SAM event | photo by Glenn Nelson

“Are they alive? Are these birds real?”   

“I know that bird! I see it in my backyard.”

“Wow, a hummingbird is smaller than I thought. This owl is softer than I imagined. Look at the toenails on this sparrow.”

These are just a few of the common questions and comments our staff and volunteers receive when we are out in the community talking and teaching about birds. At the heart of our mission at Birds Connect Seattle is a commitment to bridging the gap between bird appreciation and conservation. But to do that, we first must spark curiosity and inspiration. 

Events, Festivals, and Schools 

One of the most noticeable ways we engage the community is through our participation in public events and community festivals—bringing birds to people. These typically include events related to nature, conservation, outdoor recreation, and of course birds and birdwatching, whose attendees might already have some curiosity for or knowledge of birds. 

Over the summer, Birds Connect Seattle participated in the Summer at SAM (Seattle Art Museum). The event organizer, Heaven Quiban, Manager of Public Engagement of the Olympic Sculpture Park said,

“I literally knew zero about bird watching before Birds Connect Seattle participated in our event. My mind was blown. I was impressed by what I learned about birds. I didn’t know window collisions were such a large contributor to bird mortality, and how simple some of the solutions could be to prevent it. I am Birds Connect Seattle’s newest, and biggest fan!”

Our staff and volunteers are also regularly requested to attend school science nights. At school events we educate kids about birds, and about potential career pathways in conservation. Birds Connect Seattle provides ready-made education kits, packed with curriculum, activities, books, and bird skins so schools can incorporate birds as part of their environmental education programming.  

We are able to build synergy and amplify our shared goals when we collaborate with our partners in community outreach events. For example, our co-participation in events and gatherings with Golden Bricks Events and QPOC Hikers allow us to bring the joy of birds to communities of color interested in outdoor recreation. Participating in plant sales with Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and Black Star Farmers is a great way to work together on the promotion of native plants and the benefits to wildlife to larger audiences.  

Birds Connect Seattle speaking to the public at Summer at SAM event | photo by Glenn Nelson

Bird Skins 

Birds Connect Seattle maintains a permit with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to keep and maintain a collection of preserved taxidermy bird specimens, which we call bird skins. If you have bumped into us at an outreach event, you might remember our bird skin specimens. Visitors can touch and hold these bird skins, which allows for a deeper level of examination that we are unable to experience with a living, wild bird. We can learn so much from these specimens and even though these birds are no longer living, they can help us understand how to better protect the birds around us.

But it isn’t all about bird appreciation when people visit our table at an event. We also offer practical tips, discussion points, and materials to encourage conservation. Depending on the event, this could include information on keeping cats inside, preventing bird-window collisions at home, the benefits of native plants, what to do if you find a dead or injured bird, tree stewardship, or binocular demonstrations. We create spaces for people to ask questions, share stories, and engage in the joy of discovery. Through these conversations, our staff and volunteers skillfully forge links between bird appreciation and bird conservation.  

Birds Connect Seattle at Refuge Day: Pride Edition | photo by Glenn Nelson

Beyond Tabling 

Community festivals and events are a great way to reach a large number of people in a short amount of time, but they aren’t the only way to spark interest in birds. Birds Connect Seattle offers classes for all experience levels including the wildly popular “Intro to Urban Birds” class, where class participants learn about our most common local birds. Our NextGen Council regularly hosts Beers for Birds trivia nights at pubs across the city to specifically reach younger and more diverse audiences. We recently even piloted a Wingspan board game night at the Nature Shop as yet another way to have fun related to birds.  

Neighborhood Bird Outings also are an important way to reach new people. These free, open-to-the-public, no-signup-required bird walks and sits provide a chance for already bird-curious folks (and even those with existing knowledge) to be guided by an experienced volunteer in a local greenspace or park. With approximately 100 of these outings offered a year, folks can experience birdwatching, and deepen their bond with Birds Connect Seattle to potentially go on to become a volunteer, member, or other program participant.  

QPOC Hikers bird walk with Birds Connect Seattle | Photo by Joshua Morris

Outreach Supports Our Mission 

Our community outreach efforts serve as vibrant threads weaving together curiosity, understanding, empathy, and action. Birds Connect Seattle’s Community Engagement Manager Ellie Yamanaka says,  

“Not everyone has prior knowledge or understanding of birds, and so it is important to start with curiosity, understanding, and excitement about birds. From there we can continue to foster interests and deepen their curiosity. If we can spark that interest, it can lead to more direct conservation action on behalf of birds and wildlife.”

The outreach efforts of Birds Connect Seattle also allow us to target specific communities who have historically been underserved by our programs, reaching new audiences that wouldn’t normally stumble upon our programs or our organization. You can see and hear birds everywhere across our region’s urban and suburban areas. An important part of community engagement is helping people notice the birds that are present in the communities where they live and work. “Once people notice birds in their day to day lives, they will start noticing birds everywhere they go,” says Ellie Yamanaka. “Birds can act as a universal connector across cultures and in all parts of the world.” 

Sundaes Outside event, Birds Connect Seattle offering binoculars demonstrations | photo by Glenn Nelson

The Start of the Pipeline 

One of the most significant impacts of our outreach endeavors is the way they enable us to reach new audiences. By venturing beyond our familiar circles, we open doors to fresh perspectives and diverse viewpoints. Our classes, trivia nights, festival participations, and Neighborhood Bird Outings introduce the beauty of birds to people who might not have considered it before. This expansion of our reach amplifies our ability to influence change, as a more diverse audience equates to a wider spectrum of conservation advocates.  

Birds Connect Seattle’s community outreach efforts represent more than just communication; they embody the essence of our mission. They are critical to feeding the pipeline of curiosity, connection, and community, all required as the groundwork to fuel local bird conservation action.  

Explore other articles in this issue of EarthCare Northwest

Stories Behind the Quill: Book Summaries

Autumn is always a great time to cozy up with a book. Select your next great read using these book reviews by member Grace Rajendran, all of which share the common inspiration—birds.

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Exploring Nature Through Art: An Expansion of Nature Camp

This summer, Nature Camp offered four week-long sessions devoted to visual art expression for our campers. With guidance from one of our members and our Camp Naturalists, the campers experienced a week filled with creativity in various art media. 

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It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane.: Aviation Designs Inspired by Birds

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