K. Stump, UF/IFAS Extension, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL 34744
Situation: The COVID-19 pandemic left many residents looking for positive and engaging activities to do at home. Birding involves making and recording observations of bird species. It enhances environmental literacy as participants learn more about local wildlife and become more deeply connected to nature and their environment. However, it can be an intimidating hobby to pick up as a beginner – especially in Florida with over 500 bird species. By learning the basics of bird identification, beginner birders can practice at home. Methods: Two backyard birding classes were held virtually using Zoom. In total, 145 residents from across the state and country participated. Each class included a 45-minute lesson and a bird identification activity. Results: 21 participants responded to an online retrospective post-test. On average, the respondents reported a 48% knowledge gain. In addition, 76% of respondents reported engaging in at least one backyard birding session on their own following the class. Conclusion: Virtual classes introduced basic birding methods to residents looking for an at-home hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants gained environmental literacy and engaged in a safe activity at home during a difficult time.