The Organization Making Birding More Accessible

Birding has long been a popular hobby for nature enthusiasts around the world. However, some aspects of traditional birding can make the activity difficult or inaccessible for certain groups. That’s where an organization called Birdsong comes in – their goal is to make the joys of birding accessible to everyone.

An Introduction to Birdsong and Their Mission

Founded in 2019, Birdsong is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the birding community. For years, birding has been perceived as an activity dominated by older white men – the typical “birder” stereotype. Birdsong aims to challenge that notion and make birding more welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

As their website states: “Birdsong enables people to observe birds wherever they are, regardless of ethnicity, income, physical ability, or background.” The organization works to break down the barriers that have historically made birding seem exclusionary. Some of the key groups that Birdsong aims to serve include:

  • People of color
  • LGBTQ birders
  • Birders with disabilities
  • Low-income communities
  • Youth and families

By improving accessibility and promoting outreach to marginalized groups, Birdsong hopes to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive birding culture. Their initiatives include making birding resources more available, providing grants and scholarships, and building connections between seasoned and novice birders.

Providing Access to Birding Tools & Knowledge

One of Birdsong’s core goals is removing the barriers that prevent marginalized groups from getting into birding. A lack of access to resources and knowledge is one such barrier. That’s why Birdsong works to make birding education and tools available to all:

Free Online Learning Materials

On their website, Birdsong offers free online courses that teach beginner skills for getting started with birding. Their lessons cover topics like buying binoculars, bird identification techniques, and using bird guides. By making this education free and accessible online, anyone can start learning about birding from home.

Grants for Binoculars & Field Guides

Quality binoculars and field guides are essential gear for productive birding, but they can be prohibitively expensive. To address this, Birdsong runs a binocular and field guide grant program. People can apply to receive donated or discounted equipment to remove the financial barrier.

Translated Materials for Non-English Speakers

Language should not prevent people from accessing birding resources. That’s why Birdsong translates some of their educational materials into different languages like Spanish. Expanding the accessibility of birding content to non-English speakers is an important part of their mission.

Building Accessible Spaces for Disabled Birders

Making birding sites physically accessible for people of different ability levels is also a priority. Birdsong works to construct wheelchair-friendly trails and viewing platforms to accommodate disabled birders. They also teach principles of universal design to help make birding as inclusive as possible.

Fostering Connections Through Community Outreach

In addition to providing access to resources, Birdsong also facilitates meaningful connections between seasoned and novice birders from diverse backgrounds. They do this through various types of community outreach programming:

Birding Meetup Groups

Across the country, Birdsong coordinates and promotes birding meetup groups that bring together people who may otherwise never cross paths. The organization helps ensure meetups are safe, welcoming spaces for marginalized folks to meet experienced local birders.

Mentorship Programs

Their mentorship initiatives connect novice birders with knowledgeable mentors who volunteer their time. Experienced birders guide new birders from underrepresented groups to help them develop skills and confidence. It facilitates one-on-one learning and friendship building.

Guest Speakers at Schools & Community Centers

Through educational programming, Birdsong brings birding experts to speak at schools and community centers. They target venues in underserved areas to spark interest in birding among youth and marginalized groups. It provides an interactive birding introduction to new audiences.

Multilingual Bird Walks

To break down language barriers, Birdsong leaders offer guided birding walks in multiple languages like English, Spanish, Mandarin, and ASL. This allows non-English speakers to fully participate and connects people across cultures through shared birding experiences.

Providing Financial Support to Break Down Barriers

Money and affording gear are some of the biggest barriers preventing underrepresented groups from engaging in birding. Birdsong actively works to remove this barrier through grants, scholarships, and creative fundraising:

Grants to Cover Membership & Entry Fees

They offer grants to cover the membership and entry fees for local, state, and national ornithology clubs and reserves. Waiving these costs helps individuals experience birding sites they couldn???t otherwise afford.

Youth Scholarships for Birding Camps

Birdsong funds scholarships to birding day camps and overnight camps for youth from diverse backgrounds. This provides immersive birding education experiences to teens who face financial limitations.

Creative Fundraising for Community Programs

From birdhouse building workshops to bird walks and meetings, Birdsong raises funds through creative events and campaigns. This supports their free community programming for underserved groups.

Free Equipment Lending Libraries

They also provide free lending libraries with binoculars, field guides, and other equipment. Allowing people to borrow gear removes the cost barrier of purchasing expensive equipment needed for birding.

Promoting Inclusion Through Outreach & Activism

A core part of the Birdsong mission is actively confronting birder stereotypes and calling for change in the broader birding community. They promote inclusion through outreach campaigns and activism:

Diversity & Inclusion Trainings at Birding Events

At major birding conventions and festivals, Birdsong leads diversity trainings for attendees. These sessions raise awareness of biases and provide strategies to make the broader birding community more welcoming.

Consulting for Birding Organizations

The organization consults with major ornithology and birding groups to assess and improve their diversity and inclusion practices from within. This amplifies Birdsong???s impact throughout the community.

Social Media Activism and Visibility Campaigns

Birdsong uses social media to celebrate diverse birders and call for change. Their visibility campaigns on Instagram and Facebook highlight real stories and voices to drive inclusion throughout the birding world.

Calling Out Discrimination in Birding Spaces

When instances of discrimination or racism happen in birding spaces, Birdsong documents incidents and calls for accountability and change. This activism makes justice and inclusion central to the conversation.

Impact & Results: How Birdsong Is Broadening Birding

Since Birdsong’s founding, they have made impressive strides in promoting diversity and inclusion among birding spaces and culture. Their multipronged approach is yielding real results:

  • Over 16,000 people have taken their free online birding courses to pick up new skills.
  • They have awarded over $100,000 in grants and scholarships to remove financial barriers for people getting into birding.
  • Birdsong facilitated over 1,000 birding outings last year focused on inclusion and community building.
  • Their speaker series has educated over 30,000 people to date through presentations at schools and community venues.
  • Birdsong’s advocacy and trainings have reached hundreds of birding organizations to drive internal change.
  • They have over 300,000 social media followers, building awareness of inclusion and diverse birders through viral campaigns.

With measurable growth and impact across their programs, Birdsong has demonstrated that their model for promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the birding community is working. They have built momentum and broadened participation across demographic groups historically underrepresented among birders. Core to their success has been systemic approaches of providing access, fostering connections, removing financial barriers, and promoting outreach – enabling meaningful change within the culture. There is still work to be done, but Birdsong offers an inspiring model for opening doors and cultivating equity in birding and beyond.

How You Can Support the Birdsong Mission

Birdsong has accomplished a lot since their founding but there are always more opportunities to continue growing the accessibility and inclusivity of recreational birding. Some options for individuals passionate about their mission include:

  • Volunteering your time: Birdsong depends on passionate volunteers to staff and support their educational programs, run local chapters, lead birding outings, and more. If you have time to contribute, inquire about volunteer roles you can fill.
  • Making financial contributions: As a non-profit, Birdsong relies on donations and grants to fund their array of initiatives. Any amount helps them advance their mission.
  • Spreading the word: Knowledge is power – the more people that know about Birdsong’s work, the greater their impact. You can follow them on social media and share their content or help promote their programs.
  • Applying pressure for change: Call on ornithology and birding organizations you are connected with to assess their diversity and inclusion practices and demonstrate public support for Birdsong’s mission.
  • Contacting companies: Reach out to manufacturers of birding products and let them know you support efforts to make gear and content more accessible across language and ability levels.

With many opportunities to provide hands-on and moral support, individuals can become part of the Birdsong community working to create a birding culture that is truly welcoming and equitable to all who want to enjoy it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Birdsong

Here are answers to some common questions people have about Birdsong and their work:

How was Birdsong founded and by whom?

Birdsong was co-founded in 2019 by three passionate birders: Amanda Ullman, Vikram Patel, and Susan Fowler. As avid birders from diverse backgrounds themselves, they wanted to address the lack of representation and inclusion they saw firsthand in many birding spaces.

Does Birdsong only help people of color get into birding?

Absolutely not. While increasing diversity is crucial, Birdsong aims to make birding accessible and welcoming to all people from groups historically underrepresented in birding. Their outreach spans diverse dimensions like race, income, age, language, LGBTQ status, and disability.

What birding skills do I need to volunteer as a mentor?

No special skills or mastery are required. Birdsong needs mentors of all experience levels. Beginners can volunteer right alongside experts. What matters most is being willing to share your time and passion for birding to help someone from an underserved group get started.

Where does Birdsong’s funding come from?

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, they rely on grants, donations, corporate sponsorships, merchandise sales, and fundraising events. Birdsong also applies for public funding when eligibility criteria are met.

Does Birdsong host any birding festivals or conventions?

They do not currently organize any major birding events themselves. However, Birdsong partners with big birding festivals by providing diversity training workshops and advocating for broader inclusion and access.

How can I find local Birdsong chapters and programs in my community?

Check out the Local Chapters section of their website to connect with active Birdsong groups near you. You can also contact their main office to learn about any regional initiatives in your area.


For too long, recreational birding has been an activity enjoyed predominantly by older white men, leaving many would-be birders feeling excluded by cultural norms they don’t feel they fit into. Birdsong is changing that status quo. By fostering greater inclusion, diversity, and equity within the birding community, they aim to make its joys accessible to all people – regardless of age, race, income, language, sexual orientation, disability status or background.

There is still work to be done, but Birdsong has made impressive strides. Through education, community building, financial support and activism, they are championing systemic change in the birding world. Anyone passionate about their mission can get involved by volunteering, donating, applying social pressure and advocating for accessibility. With continued momentum, recreational birding can become a welcoming space for people from all walks of life to open their eyes to the beauty of birds.