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Cheers to That: Beers for Birds draws younger crowds

by Bryony Angell

Beers for Birds attendees at the Wedgwood Ale House, 2016

A cold brew on a sultry summer evening disarms the typically serious birder crowd gathered for a session of bird-themed trivia at a local pub. No birds here to add to your life list, but you’ll be sure of the companionship of fellow birders, ready to knock one back and show off their bird-nerdery. I’m here with two girlfriends to observe the festivities and maybe show off my own bird trivia knowledge. Beers for Birds, Seattle Audubon’s periodic social series, is all in good fun. Everyone is welcome, but the event does seem to be a particular draw for young men.

Nathaniel Peters, 33, a Seattle Audubon Master Birder and a regular moderator for the night, loves the platform: “You give me a microphone and a beer and let me talk about birds; I’m happy on all fronts.” His baritone delivery echos off the hardwood floors and participants lean in, both to hear Peters, and conceal their answers from other tables as the competition gets under way.

So you think you might know something about birds? Questions run the gamut of serious to silly: True or false: A hummingbird can fly upside down (true). This North American bird has been depicted on the Canadian $5 bill (Belted Kingfisher). What are the names of Donald Duck’s nephews? (Huey, Dewey and Louie).

Trivia stage at Peddler Brewing Company, 2016

“We might totally bomb in one area and excel in another,” says David Olsen, 42, and former leader of the University of Washington Bird Club. “People who bird don’t socialize outside of birding. But people will show up if we drink alcohol.” Brendan McGarry, 32, has attended Beers for Birds since age 21. “You see people here without their birder hat on. The beer and trivia unite people.”

And the crowd is dedicated. I survey the room to ask how folks find their way here. Over half are regulars to the event and many are Seattle Audubon members (or brought by one). And, as McGarry notes, the gathering is a bit different than other Seattle Audubon events. “I’ve seen more young people here than before,” he says.

Does that mean Beers for Birds is an effective recruitment tool for a younger generation of birder? “Maybe,” says Peters. “But these trivia nights are better for those who already like birds.” Olsen brings his mostly college-age bird club members, and McGarry attends with already nature-zealous friends. The pub population here are already ardent converts, enjoying time off the field with their flock.

The three men agree that recruitment for birding and conservation must target the next generation. “The more young people you reach, the better,” says Peters. And he means the 21-and-under set. “Rich nature memories are made as a child, that stick with you through your life. Without connection to animals, you won’t care about the misuse of land.” McGarry is in graduate school now for environmental education, and Olsen just last week intercepted a group of elementary school students on the UW campus to show them the resident nesting Barred Owl.

Seattle Audubon Nature Shop Manager, David Garcia | Photo by Bryony Angell

We switch back to our current adult setting. What bird would you most like to pubcrawl with? “Depends on how much crawling!” says Peters. “Ruby-crowned kinglet,” says McGarry. “For their song. They seem like fun birds.” Olsen chooses the Belted Kingfisher from that earlier trivia question. “They’re so rambunctious; lots of attitude. A fearless, happy drunk?” Peters decides on an Ostrich: “If it was a serious crawl...That’s the bird most likely to get me home at the end of the night.”

Beers for Birds resumes regular meetups through Summer 2018, and you’re invited.

 

Bryony Angell is a member of Seattle Audubon's board of directors and a regular Beers for Birds attendee.

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