Peek Into Black Birders Week

September 14, 2020

Simone Maddox participated in Black Birders Week and shared her insights into the experience.


Simone Maddox stands in the woods with binoculars and looks for birds

The inaugural Black Birders Week was held May 31 - June 5. It came off the heels of a viral racist incident in Central Park where a white woman called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black man who was birding and asked her to leash up her dog (which is the law). That evening George Floyd was killed on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis.

Simone Maddox, a second year PhD student in Keith Barker’s lab, participated in Black Birders Week. Maddox also works closely with Professor Sharon Jansa and Associate Professor and Breckenridge Chair of Ornithology for the Bell Museum Sushma Reddy, dubbing the three groups, a “supergroup.” Follow her on Twitter @mone_maddox.

What inspired you to participate in Black Birders Week?

The days and weeks that followed Memorial Day, I was acutely aware of how weird it was to be a Black birder in Minnesota. I felt like this week gave me a platform and a moment to just speak to that. Representation is so important. And I love my lab group so I also wanted to celebrate them.

What was your favorite part of participating in Black Birders Week?

I enjoyed that each day had its own focus. The day that I participated in was focused on highlighting Black women who bird. It was good to feel like I was a part of a larger community. I also connected with other BIPOC researchers working on the intersection of urban and natural systems — where my research falls.

What’s a bird’s eye view of your research?

I study urban systems and am interested in why some birds thrive in cities and others avoid them entirely. Specifically, I’m interested in how brain size and activity might drive these decisions. 

What are a handful of Black birders you recommend people to follow on Twitter?

There are a lot of amazing Black birders out there! Here are just a few accounts I follow: @hood_naturalist, @Sternarchella, @naturallywild, @JeffreyMWard, @JasonWardNY, @Afro_Herper.