‘Birdability’ hosts accessible Christmas bird counts in NE, nationwide

‘Birdability’ hosts accessible Christmas bird counts in NE, nationwide
A white-breasted Nuthatch hangs upside in a photo taken during a Christmas Bird Count. Audubon reported more than 79,000 people participated in the count last year, the third-highest number ever. (Kyle/Adobe Stock)
December 16th, 2023 | Nebraska News Connection

Bird-watchers across the country are part of the 124th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count between now and early January.

One group helps people with disabilities participate in the count, and in birding activities year-round.

Virginia Rose, founder and president of Birdability, said she went “birding” from a wheelchair for 20 years and saw almost no other people with visible disabilities. With support from the National Audubon Society, an interactive map now identifies accessible birding spots, including 13 in Nebraska.

Rose pointed out Audubon turned her list of accessibility features into a survey, and the results were used to crowdsource the first Birdability map.

“And within maybe a year-and-a-half, there were over 1,000 sites in the U.S.,” Rose explained. “And within three years, there were 15 countries included.”

Rose noted there are around 50 Birdability “captains” across the country. In addition to identifying accessible parks to add, or “pin” to the map, they lead regular outings for people with disabilities.

An accessible Christmas Bird Count will be held tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Oak Lake in Lincoln, one of several Christmas Bird Counts in Nebraska between now and Jan. 5.

Cassandra Dean, Nebraska Birdability captain, said Nebraska Game and Parks helps them promote accessible birding locations through its Go Bird Nebraska website.

“I pin the sites on the Birdability map, tell Nebraska Game and Parks and then, they go into their webpage and link the Birdability map to their webpage,” Dean outlined. “If someone goes onto their webpage, and not normally the Birdability map, they’re still taken over to the Birdability map.”

Dean emphasized several features affect accessibility, including the presence of ramps and railings, as well as the length and slope of the trail and the type of surface.

“Indian Cave State Park ended up building a new trail for my accessible bird outing event, because their trails have too much of a slope,” Dean recounted.

Dean added people can contribute to the Birdability map by indicating the accessibility features of parks they visit which are not yet “pinned.”

Rose stressed better accessibility benefits large numbers of people.

“We are not talking only about disabled people; we are talking about every single person who ages,” Rose said.


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