By Rasheena Fountain, Communications Manager
Birds are everywhere; they soar over rural landscapes, and walk along concrete sidewalks in big cities. Because birds are so easily accessible, catching the “birding bug” can happen anywhere at any time. In the same way, birders’ experiences are as diverse as the hues of the birds themselves. For Black History Month and Women’s History Month, we started a series to highlight a few black women birders who are members of the Seattle Audubon community. Tiffany Adams, a New York City native, is the second birder in the series.
Birder: Tiffany Adams
Years Birding: 7
Seattle Audubon Affiliation: Seattle Audubon Volunteer and Bird-a-thon participant
Favorite saying/Quote: “Whenever I see bald eagles, I think about determination in the face of obstacles. Looking at nature in its pure form can add meaning to your life.”
Favorite Bird: Raptors
Birds are Accessible Wildlife in Cities
For Tiffany, her love for wildlife and wanting to connect with others who enjoyed the same first led her to birding in New York City.
”I was looking for a wildlife meet up, and I didn’t find anything until I saw birdwatching in Central Park,” Tiffany said, adding, “It was at the height of migration season.” She hadn’t previously tried birdwatching, but was amazed at what she discovered right in her own backyard when she got there.
Without expectation, she made the journey to join the birdwatching group.
“That trip was interesting because I was the only black woman, and without binoculars or a field guide—just my point-and-shoot camera and my interest in wildlife.”
One of her first photos, a photo of an American Goldfinch, captured her attention and solidified her journey as a birder.
“It was at the peak of its breeding plumage. I was amazed that I could see that in New York City,” Tiffany said.
Soon after, she went birding by herself, looking at the birds that filled her neighborhood—still with just a point-and-shoot until someone loaned her a pair of binoculars.
Birder for Life
Tiffany grew up in Chelsea in Lower Manhattan, a place she describes as mostly covered in concrete with a few strips of green in between.
“I am a New Yorker,” Tiffany said proudly.
Tiffany’s family does not share her excitement for birds and often finds her passion to be a bit strange, as did some in her Chelsea community.
“You watching pigeons?” Her family usually asked her.
“No, there is more out there than pigeons,” she would often reply.
But even with the peculiarity that being a birder can attract, she does not let this stop her. As a city girl, her passion stems from wanting to show the beauty of urban nature through birding.
“I am a birder for life,” she exclaimed.
Urban Birds Help Me Learn My Environment
She finds the beauty in the mundane landscapes—in the pigeons during mating season, or gulls interacting with their urban environment. One reasons she enjoys David Lindo’s How to be an Urban Birder is because of his ability to find beauty in urban settings.
“It treats the urban birds that we see every day as tropical birds,” Tiffany said.
Birding also helps Tiffany spend time outside, to not just learn about the birds, but about the other inhabitants: insects, trees, shrubs, and flowers.
“Every time I go outside and go birding, I learn something new about something that is not a bird.”
A Sense of Humor and Mission of Inclusivity
One aspect that Tiffany brings to birding is a sense of humor.
“Birds don’t stop at Bed-Stuy,” Tiffany said, referencing a Brooklyn neighborhood known for being a center for Brooklyn’s black population. Though said in humor, it is a statement that encapsulates her belief about the accessibility of birding.
She acknowledges some of the social constraints that may come with being a black birder, but says she has not personally experienced any overt negative reactions while out birding. Birder and professor Drew Lanham speaks quite a bit about being a black birder and has also used humor, as in his popular “Rules of a Black Birder” video.
While Tiffany has not experienced any discrimination personally, she acknowledges a lot of Drew’s experiences.
“If I was a black man, I think I would feel a lot more hostility in the field; I have no doubt that discrimination could happen,” Tiffany said.
As an environmental educator, with a birder lens, she strongly believes that everyone has a place in the birding world.
“Birds are everywhere; therefore, birding is for everyone. It doesn’t matter how you interact with the birds,” Tiffany said. “Anyone can be a birder.”