Via - March/April 2015 - Oregon - (Page 17)
He sings the praises
of Western birds
regon native Noah Strycker catapulted onto the national birding scene when he became associate editor of Birding magazine at just 22. His acclaimed second book, The Thing with Feathers:
The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal about Being Human, is just out in paperback.
Strycker holds a magnolia warbler.
COURTESY NOAH STRYCKER
Q Why is Oregon interesting to birders?
A Of all the states in the country,
Oregon has the ﬁfth-highest bird list
in terms of how many species you
can ﬁnd here. We also have a diverse
range of habitats-the coast, the
mountains, the valley, the high desert.
All of those habitats are home to
completely different bird species.
Q How did you get into birding?
A My ﬁfth-grade teacher at Oak
Hill School in Eugene, Ore., suctioncupped a plastic bird feeder to our
classroom window, and would stop
class every time a new bird showed up.
All the other kids thought birds were
dumb, but I really got into identifying
the different species. I thought it was
a fun challenge!
My family and friends weren't into
it, so birding was a personal passion.
On my own, I ﬁgured out all the birds
in my backyard. Once I started running into other, older birders at nearby
parks, I joined local clubs, started taking trips, and never looked back.
Q Which Oregon spots were
formative for you?
A When I was one month
old, my parents moved us to a
20-acre farm at a dead end in
the country, just outside
Creswell. I've been able to
identify 100 species of birds
in my backyard alone. I
believe Fern Ridge Wildlife
Area, just outside Eugene, is
the best bird-watching spot
in western Oregon because it
has such a large system of
marshes, dikes, and embankments. It is an oasis for birds,
and all of the birds drawn to
wetlands get sucked in there.
Q What species get locals excited?
A Oregon has a few specialty birds
that birders really fall for: The varied
thrush and the mountain quail are
two big ones. But there are no birds
that reside in Oregon alone.
Q How should novice birders start?
A Learn the birds in your own backyard. Then go to your local park, the
local lake. I highly recommend seeking out other bird-watchers and
attending birding events such as the
Christmas Bird Count. Local chapters
of the National Audubon Society are
another great resource.
Q How does bird behavior help us
understand human behavior?
A The magpie is a truly fascinating
species, and it's a bird we have here in
Oregon. It is the only bird in the world
that can recognize itself in the mirror.
The question becomes: Does that
relate to self-awareness as we understand it in humans? Magpies also display grief, and they can solve puzzles.
All of these are things we think of as
distinctly human. We see things in bird
behavior that show humans are often
not as unique as we believe.
Q Why might nonbirders want to give
birding a try?
A Birding motivates you to get outdoors
and go to places you would never otherwise go. Birders often take friends with
them, so it's a social activity. In a larger
sense, more and more people are getting
urbanized and having scant encounters
with nature, so it is especially important
to get out and about and appreciate the
wild one-on-one. -emily grosvenor
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