Bird Conservation Through Education TM

August 29, 2013 

In This Issue
Diversity in the LRGV
BirdSleuth Webinar Series
Purple Martins and Us
A BirdNote Note
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsor:
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The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.


Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

Quick Links

Why a Focus on Diversity Gathering in the Lower Rio Grande Valley? 

McAllen, Texas: November 4-6, 2013
by Dave Magpiong 

McAllen is ideal for the next installment of the Focus on Diversity (FOD) conferences for several reasons. Of course, the Valley's specialty species like Ringed Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, and Altamira Oriole are a beautiful attraction for birders from across the country.


This map of Texas distribution shows heavy concentrations in pale and darker yellow (by county). The above-mentioned bird diversity is clustered around the deep-yellow areas of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV). But also note some areas in yellow expanding beyond the LRGV region, where species like Whooping Crane, Crested Caracara, White-tailed Hawk, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and Golden-cheeked Warbler reside.  


The resource of the various World Birding Center (WBC) sites in the area is another very important factor for deciding to hold FOD 2013 in the LRGV. With the 20th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, based in nearby Harlingen and immediately following (6-10 November) the conference, participants will be able to attend two special events in one single visit. And the respective staffs from the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau and the RGVBF have been instrumental in bringing the Focus on Diversity to south Texas.


These are all wonderful reasons to attend the next FOD event, but they are probably not enough. Now, let me clarify something very important--I misled you earlier. That map does not illustrate bird-specialty distribution in Texas with an emphasis on the LRGV. It actually shows the largest racial and ethnic groups by county in the Lone Star State from the 2010 census. Deepening shades of yellow show the density of Latino populations.


Significantly, the Valley's extended metro areas, including McAllen and Harlingen, highlight the critical need for the Focus on Diversity movement. These areas have already undergone the demographic "minority flip" that is occurring in many places in the U.S.  The "minorities" of Latino heritage comprise between 88% and 96% of the southernmost five counties by the Rio Grande. This makes Latinos the majority and Caucasians the minority in the Valley. Yet, what percentage of birders in the Valley are Latinos? Or why is this important?


Our treasured birding spots that serve as home for those aforementioned specialty or desirable species are the varied-sized islands of habitat left amid the mix of agriculture, business, and suburban sprawl of the LRGV. The future of birding in the LRGV will depend on the appreciation that locals, not visiting birders, hold for these birds and their habitat. This is why the theme for the FOD conferences has been "changing the face of American birding." 


The FOD conference will have regional--and even national--implications, serving as a model for other possible events with regionally-appropriate emphasis for places like Florida, California, Georgia, the Great Lakes, the Northeast, and beyond. While key participants from those areas will be attending in November, don't hesitate to contact me at if you want to help organize an FOD event at these locations or elsewhere.


WBC sites in the Valley like Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and Quinta Mazatlan, along with Santa Ana NWR, are already doing considerable work to engage local audiences with bird education activities and conservation messages which can serve as a wonderful model for conference participants.


Visit  to learn more about the Focus on Diversity speakers, associated events, and registration details.  
Contributions by J. Drew Lanham and Paul Baicich 
"Soar Through the Standards"
Webinar Series with BirdSleuth K-12!
If you'd like to teach standards-based science through birds, check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology's new webinar series for K-12 educators. You'll learn science content, teaching strategies, and receive resources and activities you can use with your students.


Each of the five webinars focuses on a different topic: bird communication, nesting, ecosystems, migration, and citizen science. With many connections to the Next Generation Science Standards, you'll learn content and get resources you can use now and into the future. Participants receive a certificate of participation, and optional Continuing Education Credit is available from Cornell University if you take the entire series. For a limited time, you can use the promotional code "SleuthWebDisc" to take $5 any webinar in the BirdSleuth online store. Please see the BirdSleuth website for more details on the series!

Purple Martins and Us: 
The Current Educational Opportunity 
by Louise Chambers, Purple Martin Conservation Association 


Purple Martins in the Eastern half of North America are highly social nesting birds. But they continue to be sociable even after leaving their nesting colonies. They will form large and amazing communal roosts where they sleep at night prior to and during migration. This phenomenon is in motion right now. 

These roosting sites are typically located near bodies of water, often reed beds or dry islands with thick brush, but they can also occur in suburban settings in clumps of trees or in semi-urban areas on bridges or even refineries.
Scores of Purple Martin roosts are known to exist in the eastern half of North America, and some can be very large, with tens of thousands of birds gathering together at dusk. While many people are familiar with the colonial nesting practices of this species, less is known about these dramatic roosts. Visiting a roost is a unique bird watching and learning experience.
Some historic and ongoing organizations include: Presque Isle State Park/Erie, PA; Bomb Island/Lake Murray, SC; Manns Harbor/Manteo, NC; The Fountains/Austin, TX; Willowbrook Mall/Houston, TX; Manns Harbor Roost/Omaha, NE; Mauricetown, NJ; Lake Pontchartrain, LA; Oklahoma City, OK; and Tulsa, OK.
Voluntary citizen-scientists are currently engaged in documenting roosts and getting involved in local conservation efforts. See here for more on the efforts to investigate and protect Purple Martin roosts.
But there is more to be done, with bird educators playing a potentially important role. Prominent roosts can serve communities and conservation groups as focal points for environmental education programs, birding festivals, or ecotourism promotions. What's missing is educators making the right connections and applying a bit of creativity and action.
Now is the perfect time for bird educators to investigate current sites, size-up the possibilities, and make plans for an organized educational experience next year.
People in the East who simply wish to enjoy a spectacular birding experience should be able to locate and visit a roost in their area. They should also be able to lean about the birds, their lives, and their protection, too. Ultimately, Purple Martins will benefit from a better educated public and the sustained recognition, promotion, and protection of these martin roosts.

A BirdNote Note


BirdNote is a fun-filled, daily, two-minute radio show that combines bird sounds and engaging stories. It serves as an ideal way to reach people about birds and nature, people who may be curious about birds but not necessarily deeply involved in birding or bird study. BirdNote has an extensive radio reach, since it has a broad appeal and is presently broadcast over 157 public radio stations.

If you are unfamiliar with BirdNote, you can sample their broadcast archives, with close to 1,200 short but inviting stories. Bird educators can even request a weekly e-mail preview with the upcoming week's shows or visit the teacher's page to use the broadcast as a specific learning experience.

Even with its growing listenership, BirdNote still has significant geographic gaps where it is not broadcast. In such cases, BirdNote offers special information for your local program directors in order to draw attention to the program. As a short feature, the show is a perfect content-filler between the news and other programming--a sound-rich, tune-in addition.

If you know organizations or blogs that would be interested and suitable sites for a BirdNote widget, you can find widget designs and instructions here.  

BEN: Connecting Bird Educators TM
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Newsletter maintained by: The Council for Environmental Education, Flying WILD and the BEN Committee.