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Birding group wants to help women feel comfortable in the outdoors

Western meadowlark.
Kevin Cole (CC-BY-2]
Western meadowlark.

Seven women wearing binoculars and hiking shoes gathered under the picnic pavilion at Greenough Park on a recent Saturday morning. They ate donuts before setting off into the trees to look for birds.

The majority of birders in America are older white men. But, birding is becoming more popular among other groups. A new club in Missoula is trying to draw more women to the hobby.

Marissa Jette is one of the women who’s embraced birding thanks to the Feminist Bird Club of Northwestern Montana.

"It's not something that I normally would have pegged myself for as, like, a birdwatcher, or anything I ever thought I would be interested in," Jette said.

At 28-years-old, Jette is not your stereotypical retiree birder. She identifies as queer and hasn’t always felt comfortable doing outdoor activities.

"There's a big barrier, I think, for queer people and being in the outdoors, like it's not super accepted some places," Jette said.

The Feminist Bird Club was founded in New York City in 2016. Chelsea Klocke started a Missoula chapter earlier this year.

"We have, I think, a good birding community in Missoula, but it's just another level of welcoming to people who maybe wouldn't necessarily see themselves as a birder," Klocke said.

Klocke also hopes that birding will help people connect with the broader natural world.

"Birding is a great gateway into just appreciating nature in general and through that appreciation, I think people care more about conserving those spaces," Klocke said.

Birdwatching has now become part of Jette’s daily life. Feeling included in this activity has opened up a whole new world for her.

"There should be no barrier between someone going birding and enjoying their time. It's not like one type of person can enjoy it. Birds are everywhere. They’re all over in our everyday lives, so everyone can enjoy them anytime," Jette said.

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