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Some aspects of birding not always environmentally friendly, professor says
Date:8/19/2009

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Once upon a trash heap dreary, while he wandered, weak and weary, University of Illinois English professor and birding enthusiast Spencer Schaffner raised his binoculars, focused and had a eureka moment.

In his sights, not a raven, nor even the Tamaulipas crow, a once-common inhabitant of the Brownsville, Texas, city dump. Rather, Schaffner identified the rarely spotted fowl irony.

The U. of I. professor, who also watches and studies bird-watchers, suggests that the popular pastime known as competitive birding that is, participation in various types of activities based around the goal of identifying and/or listing the greatest number of avian species may not be as eco-friendly as it purports to be.

Schaffner makes his case in an essay titled "Environmental Sporting: Birding at Superfund Sites, Landfills and Sewage Ponds." The essay appears in the August issue of the Journal of Sport & Social Issues.

"This article describes birding as an example of what I call environmental sporting, an ostensibly green category of sport that relies on both environmental protection and degradation," he notes in the essay's abstract.

In the article, Schaffner considers three forms of competitive birding that typically entail excursions to polluted landscapes:

  • the World Series of Birding, which takes place each May near Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites in New Jersey and is sponsored by the state's Audubon Society.

  • "big-year birding," which typically includes visits to landfills in an effort to track the greatest number of species in a defined region over the course of a year.

  • the practice known as listing, or maintaining an ongoing list of sighted species, including those that populate sewage ponds.

Schaffner notes that competitive birding became popular in the United States in the 1950s, evolving out of what he calls the "automoti
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Contact: Melissa Mitchell
melissa@illinois.edu
217-333-5491
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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