"Part of the thrill was driving around the country in automobiles," Schaffner said. "Competitive birders log many hours in their cars. Some even flly to spot a single species of bird."
However, competitive birding was a direct outgrowth of the more genteel pastime of bird-watching, which Schaffner said dates to the late 19th century.
"There's a long history of strong connections between bird-watching even competitive birding and environmentalism and the protection of bird species," he said. "Bird-watching was invented or mass-marketed with the invention of field guides as a way to end the plume trade and save birds at the end of the 19th century."
Schaffner said an association with "green" philosophies and a commitment to conservation continues today in many bird-watching and birding circles.
"There's still an ongoing tradition of bird-watching that's very connected to larger ecosystems and the environment. Many bird-watchers are not just looking at birds, but paying attention to everything, including climate change and all aspects of ecology.
"But specifically, with these competitive birding practices like the World Series of birding, or some forms of the listing, there's this kind of contradictory discounting of that larger environmentalist ethic."
Nonetheless, he added, "it's not a simple thesis to say, 'Birding has gone wrong.' "
"But what I would say is that we tend to think getting out there in the outdoors and doing things that I'm calling environmental sport is part of saving the planet. It's considered part of being green and caring about nature."
The rub, he said, is that "a lot of the environments we do that in are altered, manufactured, human-modified places. And a lot of t
|Contact: Melissa Mitchell|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign