BCR 093: Laura Erickson


Laura has been blathering about birds since she memorized the “Bird” entry in her family’s encyclopedia when she was a preschooler. She whistled in a cardinal when she was very little, and once saw a whole flock of warblers in the tree outside her bedroom window, though she thought they must be the angels of canaries that died saving miners’ lives.

Laura didn’t know how to identify birds until after her mother-in-law gave her a field guide and binoculars for Christmas in 1974. By the late ’70s she was subjecting her middle-school students in Madison, Wisconsin, and readers of her occasional columns in The Wisconsin State Journal to endless stories about birds. She moved to Duluth, Minnesota, and started producing “For the Birds,” a radio spot now airing on independent public and community radio stations from Oregon to New York, in 1986. “For the Birds” is the longest-running radio program about birds in the United States.

Laura is currently a contributing editor of BirdWatching magazine, author of eleven books, including 101 Ways to Help Birds, the American Birding Association Field Guide to Minnesota Birds, and the National Geographic Pocket Guide to North American Birds, and she collaborates on projects with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where she served as science editor from 2008–2010.

Laura served as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator focused primarily on songbirds and especially Common Nighthawks while she was a stay-at-home mother in the 80s and 90s; has counted raptors and songbirds at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and other sites in Duluth, Minnesota; and studied nighthawk digestion as part of an ill-fated Ph.D project. Her professor, Dr. Gary Duke (co-founder of The Raptor Center) told her she was the “world authority on nighthawk digestion” even as he mentioned that no one else particularly wanted that distinction.

An avid birder, Laura saw 604 species (593 countable by ABA rules) during her “2013 Conservation Big Year,” and until recently was listed in the top ten overall on the ABA “Listing Central” for Lower 48 Big Years.

Show Notes:

  • First and only woman recipient of the American Birding Association’s prestigious Roger Tory Peterson Award.
  • Your interest in birds and what were the formative events from your early days.
  • Widely published author of  eleven books about birds.
  • Favorite and hardest book to write.
  • Currently a contributing editor of BirdWatching Magazine.
  • Tell us about the “Nighthawk digestion” episode.
  • Longest-running “For The Bird” radio program in the USA for many public radio stations for 31 years, since 1986.
  • The 2013 Conservation Big Year.
  • PIP the birding dog.
  • Challenges you have faced or still face in the science and birding world.
  • Words of wisdom do you have for women who share your interests and want to make a contribution to the field.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Laura Erickson Website

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1 Comment

  1. Dave Magpiong on July 23, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Just finished this absolutely wonderful BirdCallsRadio Show. It was great to hear Mardi chat with one of the most important American birders – Laura Erickson.

    I laughed. I got angry. I learned a lot as well.

    This is an absolutely MUST listen for any bird or even nature enthusiasts.

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