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Survey Feedback on WSO Publications

The Future of Birding, Chapter 3: Survey Feedback on WSO Publications

This is the third article in a series reviewing the results from the WSO Strategic Planning survey. It summarizes questions about the Badger Birder and the Passenger Pigeon.

When the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology embarked on a strategic planning effort late last fall, it sought to better identify the needs of its members as well as those of other birders in the area. One of the Society’s major ongoing commitments has been to its publications — the quarterly Passenger Pigeon journal and the monthly Badger Birder newsletter — so that obviously was an area that surveys of both members and non-members emphasized.

This seemed especially important given the explosion of social media that have greatly expanded birders’ communication capabilities. Wisbirdn, the Wisconsin Birding Network on Facebook, Wisconsin eBird, WBCI on both Facebook and, along with local bird club email lists, all have given birders ample new ways to gather and share information.

The committee was thrilled by the overall response rate. Our member survey drew 259 responses from among our roughly 1,100 members, far exceeding the 10-15% response rate that most surveys hope to achieve. We also found some additional WSO members among the 112 responses to a separate non-member survey.

This is the third of four reports on the survey results in the Badger Birder and at , leading up to the annual WSO convention in Ashland May 23-26, where it will be discussed at the business meeting. The complete survey is on the web site to let folks draw their own conclusions and offer WSO leaders additional feedback.

When asked how well WSO is doing in various areas, it got the highest marks for publications (55% said very well) and field trips (51%), followed by the records committee (42%) and the convention (37%).

Overall support for the Pigeon is very strong. Told in a question that expenses for the Passenger Pigeon are more than 50% of WSO’s annual budget and then asked if the publication was worth that as part of your WSO membership, 71% said yes.

Many WSO respondents would not change a thing in the Pigeon, except to add more color photos. The seasonal field notes stood out as its most important content, followed by articles on research and then the records committee’s reports. WSO’s president and historian apparently should not quit their day jobs to become full-time columnists….

WSO respondents were 56% to 44% against taking the Pigeon online; that was the reverse of the non-member results, where the interest in getting the Pigeon online suggests that there are some people who are resistant to in-print publications and might be attracted to WSO if we offered an online option for our publications.

And the fact that 52% of the non-members surveyed were familiar with the Birder and Pigeon suggests that many non-members are actually ex-members.

The things that significant numbers of respondents wanted to add to the Pigeon: lots more on conservation, more research articles (especially from students), more ID articles on individual species, and individual birding hot spots (with maps, target species).

There was a local focus with multiple pitches for summaries of work going on in the Midwest and in state ornithology programs; a focus on Wisconsin species, including their natural history/life history in state, as well as status; habitat management articles; profiles of WSO members; articles about local bird clubs; reviews of books, journals and technical gear. And more stuff for young Birders and info on web sites.

Some of the suggestions for the Pigeon, because of its longer deadline cycle, probably are more appropriate for the Birder, which publishes more frequently. Survey suggestions for the Badger Birder tended to overlap suggestions for the Pigeon. And there also was overlap between what they want in print and what is being done electronically on eBird. Here is a rundown of the Birder suggestions:

  • Number one request by far was for articles on hot spots. Including new spots, up-dated spots, seasonal related (where to go when), and where to bird NEXT month.
  • Conservation related – broad range of specifics mentioned: landscaping, habitat improvement, List of volunteer opportunities, how to participant in projects, legislative action, etc.
  • Information about local bird clubs: list them, list their calendars of events, list their field trips, tell us how to join, etc.
  • Articles about WSO birders: have a Birder of the Month, profiles on leaders/contributors.
  • Listing of bird festivals in Wisconsin and nearby states; list of IMBD events.
  • Feature a species each month related to the season.
  • Articles on youth activities. What WSO does for youth.
  • Personal birding stories.
  • What’s new with WSO column – new board members, committee members, activities, board actions.