The Missouri River Bird Observatory first got the idea to start a young birders club in the state a few years ago, but it wasn’t until this spring that the idea became a reality. The first young birders club was started by six students in Ohio with the assistance of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. They formed what is known as the Ohio Young Birders Club. Since then, young birders clubs have sprung up all over the country with the help of the YBC Toolkit developed by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. During the spring of 2018, the Missouri River Bird Observatory hosted the Spring Meeting for the Audubon Society of Missouri. During the meeting, professionals from all over the state, and outside the state, gathered at a workshop to launch the Missouri Young Birders Club. The MYBC is a new program starting out under the umbrella of the Missouri River Bird Observatory and its mission is to bring together young Missourians to enjoy, experience and conserve Missouri’s birds and other wildlife. The MYBC is part of a framework called the Young Birders Network (YBN). The YBN aims to provide all the resources a young birder needs to know about a life with birds. The YBN is a community of young birders and Young Birders Clubs (YBCs) from all over the United States and the world. The YBN thrives under the philosophy that Young Birders Clubs encourage the next generation of naturalists to grow their interest in the natural world.
The Missouri River Bird Observatory aimed to start a Young Birders Club because Young Birders Clubs increase awareness and appreciation of the natural world and instill a conservation ethic in their members. Many young adults cite young birders clubs, camps, and other networking groups as a turning point for them in their career development. Young birders often have trouble finding similarly-minded peers and YBCs fill this niche.
Our vision for the Missouri Young Birders Club is to have a club that is by kids and for kids. Empowering Missouri’s youth is a large part of the MYBC mission. Youth members will be involved in making decisions for all aspects of the club, as well as have the opportunity to mentor younger naturalists. The club will provide field trips to local birding areas and opportunities for members to get involved with various aspects of conservation. Currently, we are recruiting students ages 8 to 17 years old. The goal is to establish local chapters in different regions of the state (Ex: Kansas City Region, St. Louis Region, Central, Southwest, Southeast, Ozarks). Local chapters will be guided by adult members, but spearheaded youth members. MYBC will also have a conservation focus. Members will not only be able to enjoy and experience Missouri’s birds, but also take action to conserve their habitats. Examples of how this can be accomplished are assisting with habitat restoration projects and taking part in citizen-science programs such as eBird and FeederWatch. Our hope is to not only involve young Missouri birders, but any young person looking to enjoy the outdoors with their peers. We hope to involve students interested in art, music, design, technology, sports, cooking and any other interest they may have in additional to their interest the natural world. With this hope in mind, we plan to host various events designed to attract young audiences with a wide diversity of interests.