Visit the Discovery Channel, AOL or Slate in the next few days, and you may see an animated bird flying across the screen. Or perching, or shying away from sudden cursor movements, or generally behaving the way birds do in the wild.
It’s part of the interactive game Birding the Net, launched in October by National Audubon Society to reach out to a new audience of birders – one that’s young and tech-savvy. Audubon hopes to introduce them to the distinctly un-techie pleasures of spotting and naming birds, in backyards and in the wild.
Technology isn’t new to birding and nature appreciation. For instance, you can ditch bulky field guides in favor of iPhone apps like Audubon Birds, which offer full species descriptions and even guide you through the process of identification.
Birding the Net takes things into social media, an “unusually ambitious” move for an environmental group,” says Yarnold.
Clicking on the animated birds takes you to an Audubon Facebook page. The first players to collect all species of birds will win a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Audubon’s results? Some 200 blogs and Web sites have played host to the birdhouses where visitors await the appearance of a species to check off their list. 37,000 people have “liked” the Facebook page in just four weeks. A techie new generation of bird lovers in the making.