Birder of BC: Melissa Hafting

Meet Melissa Hafting. A powerhouse in the BC birding community.

She runs the BC Rare Bird Alert website, where she keeps track of all the rare birds reported in the province and helps out twitchers. In 2014, she founded the BC Young Birders Program which brings together youth of all races, sexual orientations and genders out on fun birding field trips in nature. She has a strong passion for wildlife conservation and is from Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is an eBird reviewer for 4 regions in BC and loves to travel around the ABA and abroad looking at birds.

What sparked your interest in birding?

My dad taking me out to Reifel, where I first met my spark bird the Black-capped Chickadee. I was 5 years old and when this tiny cute puffball sat on my hand to eat some sunflower seeds and sang its little song “chickadee -dee -dee”. I was hooked.

Favourite bird?

My favourite bird is a Rough-legged Hawk. I love the colour pattern of it’s underwing and tail and how unique it is. I like that it comes in several different colour morphs, none the less beautiful than the other. I also love to see how it hovers over a field or tundra as it hunts its prey.

Greater Sage-Grouse by Melissa Hafting

Favourite birding moment?

Oh, that’s really a hard one to pick. But I think sitting alone at a Sage Grouse Lek in Colorado at sunrise, being totally alone, and so close to these beautiful males displaying with their yellow balloons on their chests and fancy plumes and listening to the amazing sounds they made –was a moment I won’t ever forget. It brought tears to my eyes.

Can you tell me a little bit about your experience as a POC in the birding community?

I’ve dealt with racism in the birding community. I definitely had to prove myself more than others. I’ve also seen an outpouring of support from some white birders which has meant the world to me. It would be nice to see more birders that looked like me but I’m glad in the upcoming next generations the dynamics are changing. Birding will soon no longer be dominated by older white men but will be filled with more women, LGBTQ+ and more people of colour.

Common Yellowthroat by Melissa Hafting

You’re very involved and vocal in the birding community, like with your blog, the young birder group, etc, what drives you to do those things?

What drives me to speak out about conservation and birding issues is that I believe we should all be informed. If we aren’t informed we can’t act on problems or injustices in our community. I also enjoy being active in the birding community in order to bring birders together by actively sharing information through the BC Rare Bird Alert and bringing together youth in birding.

Anything you want to add?

I just want to add we have a great community of active and racially diverse young birders in BC that bring me a lot of hope for the future. They are going into great environmental careers and it’s been a joy to mentor them. It’s amazing what they’re doing to bring awareness to environmental issues, because it is through the power of speaking out about issues and coming together as a community that I believe we can truly bring about change.

Black-footed Albatross by Melissa Hafting

Follow Melissa on Instagram @bcbirdergirl and Flickr (Birdergirl) for more amazing photos, her blog at http://daretobird.blogspot.com for thought-provoking inspiration, and her rare bird alert at http://bcbirdalert.blogspot.com for the latest BC bird news!

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