One in five people in the United States is a birdwatcher, yet the popular understanding of birders reduces them to comical stereotypes, obsessives who only have eyes for their favorite rare species. In real life, however, birders are paying equally close attention to the world around them, observing the devastating effects of climate change and mass extinction, while discovering small pockets of biodiversity in unexpected places.
For the Birds offers readers a glimpse behind the binoculars and reveals birders to be important allies in the larger environmental conservation movement. With a wealth of data from in-depth interviews and over three years of observing birders in the field, environmental sociologist Elizabeth Cherry argues that birders learn to watch wildlife in ways that make an invaluable contribution to contemporary conservation efforts. She investigates how birders develop a "naturalist gaze" that enables them to understand the shared ecosystem that intertwines humans and wild animals, an appreciation that motivates them to participate in citizen science projects and wildlife conservation.
1 Becoming a Birder
2 The Naturalist Gaze
3 Common Birds and the Social Construction of Nature
4 Wilderness, Wildness, and Mobility
5 Good Birds, Bad Birds, and Animal Agency
6 Birding and Citizen Science
7 Birding as a Conservation Movement
Elizabeth Cherry is an associate professor of sociology at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. She is the author of Culture and Activism: Animal Rights in France and the United States.
"Without qualification, For the Birds will make a substantial and significant contribution to sociology. Cherry's writing style and conversational tone take us through the training of a neophyte birder into a level of expertise all the while keeping the book extremely readable, lively and accessible."
–Lisa Jean Moore, author of Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee
"With its eagle-eyed sights on birders in their natural habitat, Elizabeth Cherry's beautiful ethnography reveals the reverence and concern that citizen scientists feel for these charismatic creatures. Like the naturalist gaze itself, For the Birds is equal parts instructive and pleasurable."
– David Grazian, author of American Zoo: A Sociological Safari