The Naturalist's Corner

Bird’s the word

North Carolina’s state parks and Audubon North Carolina have joined together to celebrate the “Year of the Birds” in 2010.

Birds grab our attention. Just ask my wife, who discovered, unexpectedly, the other afternoon that the Carolina wren that nests in her clothespin basket every spring also roosts there in cold weather. I’m sure if someone took the time to translate her hastily shouted expletive it would be, “My goodness, you surprised me! I didn’t expect to find such a beautiful fluttery creature in my basket this time of year.” And nothing says spring quite like the first shiny black, white and crimson rose-breasted grosbeak that shows up at our feeder on that sunny April morning.

In fact, a 2009 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report estimated one of every five Americans is a “bird-watcher,” defined as someone who took a trip of at least one mile for the primary purpose of observing birds, or someone who closely observed and tried to identify birds around their home. These enthusiasts contributed $36 billion to the national economy in 2006, according to the report.

But for many around the world, across the country and here in the Old North State whose avocation is protecting and preserving our natural environment, this palpable connection between man and bird means much more than a business opportunity.

Chris Canfield, executive director of Audubon North Carolina, talked about the creation of “Year of the Birds.”

“Our partnership with N.C. State Parks began when I was asked to speak to a gathering of superintendents. I asked staff here to analyze what parklands overlapped with our Important Bird Areas program. As it turned out, about 100,000 acres of the parks, more than half of the park holdings at the time were in IBAs or potential IBAs. Lew Ledford [Lewis Ledford, director North Carolina state parks] and I put our heads together and realized we had so many common goals — expanding parks, heightening environmental awareness among the public, documenting the value of parklands for birds and other wildlife. So we committed to working together. The NC Birding Trail was one excellent outcome that grew, in part, out of that commitment. The Year of the Birds is the latest public expression of the power of both parks and birds to connect people to nature. For me, and I know for many others, noticing the birds inhabiting an area is central to my understanding of that place. Our state parks hold some of the most cherished landscapes in North Carolina, and they provide wonderful venues for the public to explore nature, including looking for the birds emblematic of each location.”

For more information regarding the Year of the Birds go to

To find out about Year of the Birds programs in your area contact Curtis Smalling, important bird areas coordinator and mountain program manager at Audubon North Carolina, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 828.265.0198.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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