Canisius University Announces Collaborative Spark Bird Project

May 3, 2022
American Goldfinch

BUFFALO, NY – Canisius University, in collaboration with several bird conservation organizations, announced today the launch of The Spark Bird Project. A spark bird is a term used by the birding community and represents the bird, moment or experience that hooks someone into their passion for birding.  The Spark Bird Project will leverage the tools of psychological science to study spark bird stories and gain insights that will inform efforts towards engaging people in bird conservation. 

“The study of spark bird stories lets us ask questions about birders, such as what birds or experiences spark passion, how birding is connected with emotions and well-being, and how birding creates meaning, purpose or interpersonal connections,” explains Jenn Lodi-Smith, PhD, professor of psychology and assistant vice president for academic affairs at Canisius University.  Lodi-Smith is leading The Spark Bird Project with ornithological consultation from Sara R. Morris, PhD, professor of biology and vice president for academic affairs.  

The project is seeking stories similar to that of Roger Tory Peterson, renowned for his involvement with the American Conservation Movement, particularly in developing the modern field guide.  

“As we entered a wood lot on the crest of the hill near the reservoir, I spotted a bundle of brown feathers clinging to the trunk of a tree. It was a flicker. I thought it was a dead. Gingerly, I touched it on the back. Instantly, this inert thing jerked its head around, looked at me with wild eyes, then exploded in a flash of golden wing and fled into the woods. Ever since, birds have seemed to me the most vivid expression of life.” [age 11]

“The knowledge gained by collecting and studying spark bird stories from the community will provide insight into the reasons why birders ‘bird,’ the potential benefits of birding and will ultimately help us craft inclusive experiences that can facilitate spark bird moments to benefit the birding community, the economy and the environment we share with birds,” adds Lodi-Smith.   

To participate in The Spark Bird Project or read the spark bird stories of others, visit www.spark-bird.orgStories and findings from the study will be shared with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Hog Island Audubon Camp and the WNY Young Birder Club, which are partnering with Canisius on The Bird Spark Project.  

One of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York. Canisius prepares leaders – intelligent, caring, faithful individuals – able to pursue and promote excellence in their professions, their communities and their service to humanity.