Bonnet House Renews Popular Birding Program

To enthusiasts, it's simply called 'birding.' But to the organizers at the historic Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale that have been hosting bird watching classes the past five years, it's a hobby that's just beginning to take off.

"Birding is supposed to be one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the world," said Linda Schaller, Bonnet House's director of education and volunteer services. "It's not expensive and it's pretty easy to do."

Beginner or old hand, the museum will begin a four-session birding program on Sept. 20, which continues every other month through March. In the past classes have drawn between 15 and 20 people, ranging from advanced birders to people that don't even own a pair of binoculars.

What they all have, Schaller said, is a curiosity about the natural world. "They want to know more," she said. "They want to know what bird this is they're looking at."

The first class will be devoted entirely to hawks, a bird that has become a frequent visitor to the museum's grounds.

"Birding is like a lifelong scavenger hunt," said South Florida naturalist Paddy Cunningham, who will be leading the program. "You're constantly making discoveries. And it's not like trying to find a Florida panther — birds are in your backyard."

The program makes use of the museum's 35-acre expanse and unique habitats. "We'll [also] go over the details of each one of the hawks," Schaller said. "We do a profile, like we were going to ID a criminal: what to look for ... and the different marks, called 'field marks,' that you're looking for."

"We have pretty good birding here at Bonnet House," she said. "We have wading birds and birds of prey ... and we can take [people] out to the edge of the ocean, where they can see the birds along the shore."

The next three sessions take place on Nov. 8, Jan. 10, and March 6.

Cost per session is $20 for Bonnet House members and $25 for non-members. For more information about the Bonnet House bird watching program, visit or call 954-563-5393, ext. 137.

By Don Crinklaw, Forum Publishing Group
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