Ashby Dodd

The Great Bird Watcher War Taking Place in New York’s Central Park

The Great Bird Watcher War Taking Place in New York’s Central Park

In the confines of New York City’s Central Park, one bird watcher is waging war against his peers… or is it the other way around?!

When I think of a bird watcher, I think of my grandma or grandpa, in their vests and sensible walking boots, in the woods with a bird book in one hand and binoculars in the other. They tried to interest me in the various species in and around North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, but the only birds I cared about were the ducks I could shoot with my Nintendo game gun. Bird watching has always seemed peaceful and serene (and kind of boring to some of us), but apparently it’s way more cut throat than I suspected. Especially if you’re a bird watcher in New York’s Central Park.

(Disclaimer: This post is not in regards to the unfortunate incident of a black man minding his own business while bird watching in Central Park, only to have a crazy white woman call the cops on him. And if you don’t know how messed up that whole situation was, you need to skip this post and find more critical reading on racial bias!)

Birder Bob with speaker

Most birders, as bird watchers tend to call themselves, can work and exist harmoniously; working while respecting their peers in the process. But there’s always that one, isn’t there? Meet Robert DeCandido, better known in the bird watching community as ‘Birding Bob.’ Birding Bob is not liked because of his birding disruptive practices. But is he disruptive, or just cutting edge? Bird watching might not be your thing, but bird watchers at war? That’s a totally different story!

If you grab binoculars and head to Central Park in New York, you may see a warbler, a robin and Robert DeCandido, also known as “Birding Bob.” If you can’t spot him, you’ll definitely hear him. Among dedicated birders, some consider his use of recorded bird calls a disturbance to birds and bird-watchers alike, while others see him as an eager advocate for the natural world.

In response to his detractors, Dr. DeCandido maintains that he’s doing his best to make bird-watching less daunting to hobbyists — and that no birds are harmed in the process. In the short documentary above, explore the sights, sounds, birds — and bird-watching drama — of the park with some of its most colorful characters.

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