WSO’s Membership Committee is highlighting its members. If you would like the WSO membership to know about a bird-related activity or project you’re involved in, please email Membership Chair Mary Murrell at email@example.com
WSO member Jenn Schneiderman is a co-leader of the Madison chapter of the Feminist Bird Club. Jenn is a masters student in wildlife ecology at UW-Madison, studying the habitat and population dynamics of recovering Bald Eagle and Osprey populations. She also teaches the Birds of Southern Wisconsin course at UW Madison.
Her co-leaders in the Madison chapter are Erin Sauer and Amy Shipley. Erin is a postdoctoral researcher at UW–Madison studying the impacts of infectious disease on wildlife. Amy is a Ph.D. candidate there in wildlife ecology, studying the effects of climate change on winter-adapted birds. The answers below were provided by Sauer, who started the Madison chapter.
Tell us about how the Feminist Bird Club first got started.
The Feminist Bird Club was founded in New York City by Molly Adams in 2016. She wanted to create an explicitly inclusive space to enjoy birding and connect with the natural world while also fundraising to support the rights of black, indigenous, and people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and women. The club primarily raises money through patch and sticker sales, the proceeds from which have been donated to groups like Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter and the New York Abortion Access Fund. In 2019, patch and sticker sales were donated to Pueblo sin Fronteras and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.
Why did you decide to start a Madison chapter?
I actually learned about the Feminist Bird Club on Twitter. I saw a few birders I follow tweeting about it so I very excitedly looked it up, read a bit more, and thought we need this Madison! I reached out to some friends to see if they would be interested in running the chapter with me and sent Molly an email to ask her what we needed to do to get a chapter started in Madison.
What has surprised you the most after starting the Madison chapter?
I was probably most surprised by how easy it was to round up support. We had 13 people on our first walk and almost all of them were people I had never met before. After our first event, Madison Audubon reached out and offered to collaborate and support our efforts. The folks at Madison Audubon have been really wonderful, it’s through their support that we are able to loan binoculars to anyone on our walks who needs a pair.
How might a Feminist Bird Club outing differ from other bird outings?
Most of the outings I had been on prior to starting our chapter were dominated by older white men who have been birding for decades. That environment can be pretty intimidating for new birders and may seem or simply be unwelcoming to marginalized people. The name of our club and mission we promote makes it explicitly clear that our outings are inclusive and welcoming. At the start of each walk we do name and preferred pronoun introductions, we restate our mission and fundraising efforts, and do a quick how-to-use binoculars review for anyone who may not be used to birding with binoculars. During our walks we try to point out any bird we spot, common or not, and explain how we identified the bird and make sure everyone gets an opportunity to get a good look (assuming the bird doesn’t fly off immediately … which, of course, happens often).
Are there other chapters in Wisconsin?
We are currently the only one, but there are chapters in Chicago and Michigan doing awesome stuff.
What are your expectations for the club in 2020?
I hope to continue our monthly walks in 2020 and incorporate some additional fundraising events like bird trivia!
How can a statewide birding organization like WSO help support the Feminist Bird Club and its mission?
I think I’d have to answer that with another question: How do larger birding organizations such as WSO envision supporting the Feminist Bird Club? It’s hard for us to know what capacity or motivations a larger organization might have to support our efforts. So, we would need a lot more information to really answer that question. However, WSO could work with the club to provide conservation research funding opportunities specifically for people of color and queer researchers.
-- This is one of several timely articles in this month's Badger Birder newsletter; don't miss out on the latest birding and conservation news. Become a WSO member today! --