Featured Blog: Bill of the Birds

Bill Thompson III, who blogs as Bill of the Birds, is the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest by day. He’s also a keen birder, the author of many books, a dad, a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, a guitar player, the host of the “This Birding Life” podcast, a regular speaker/performer on the birding festival circuit, a gentleman farmer, and a fungi to be around. His North American life list is somewhere between 667 and 669. {Not counting the six he just added in San Diego.} His favorite bird is the red-headed woodpecker. His “spark bird” was a snowy owl. He has watched birds in 25 countries and 44 states. But his favorite place to watch birds is on the 80-acre farm he shares with his wife, artist/writer Julie Zickefoose.

Some kind person once called Bill “The Pied Piper of Birding” and he has been trying to live up to that moniker ever since.

Bill, why do you blog?

I started blogging to get a feel for it. As a magazine editor, I see that the old model of mailing magazines to someone’s physical mailbox is not working like it once did. People want to have options in how they consume content. I have been looking for other ways to deliver content since the early days of the Internet and blogging seemed like a good channel or mode to try.

And it’s been really rewarding. But I think the thing I’ve gotten out of it more than anything else is the challenge of writing creatively on a regular basis.

What do you like most and least about blogging?

This is sort of answered above. I like the challenge of writing and I love to get feedback from people who read my blog. With a magazine or a book there’s not really a built-in feedback channel. But blogs normally have a comment function, which is neat.

What I like least about blogging is the low-level feeling of guilt that occurs when I have not blogged for a while. I feel that obligation pretty keenly.

How has blogging changed how you think about nature?

I find I am always on the look out for blog worthy material—especially amazing images or experiences and the truly absurd or goofy stuff. I seem to find more than my fair share of the absurd.

How does blogging intersect with your interests and work?

I know that some of the good folks who read my blog have been inspired to try new things: attending a festival, taking a birding tour, digiscoping, trying new technology.

Blogging runs all across the stuff that I do professionally. But then again the lines between what I do professionally and my personal interest in birds and nature are totally blurred. I feel pretty lucky about that.

As I mentioned earlier the regular writing I do for Bill of the Birds has helped me become an ‘easier” writer. By that I mean that I don’t find it quite as daunting having an entire book writing project in front of me, maybe that’s because I’ve been using those writing muscles on a daily basis. Or maybe I’m kidding myself on that one….

Julie and I read each other’s blogs all the time and comment when we can. But we don’t do much co-blogging. She’s got her gig and I’ve got mine. Sometimes we won’t blog about a shared experience after one of us has written about it first. But overall I think she’s WAY better at this than I am. She’s got a natural ability to tell a story in a really engaging way and she’s very good at taking the time to get it right. I call her Blogzilla. (Julie, you may have equal time to respond. –Wren.)

How do you promote your blog and attract readers?

Facebook and Twitter a bit. I’ve been a part of NBN for several years and have finally weened myself from obsessively checking my stats there.

Is there a story behind the name of your blog?

It just came to me and seemed to fit.

Do you feel you’re part of a community with other nature bloggers?

Yes I certainly feel I’m part of a very creative and interesting community of nature bloggers—many of whom are new friends. The nature–blogging community is as diverse as it is talented and passionate about nature. Sometimes I wish I could just surf from blog to blog, reading—that would be a great job to have!

Any words of wisdom for new nature bloggers?

Yes. Blog when it feels right—when you have something to share. When you don’t don’t trouble your mind about not blogging. It’s OK. We’ll still be out here when you post again.

Anything else you’d like me to ask you, or that you’d like to volunteer without being asked?

Well, I’m really dedicated to helping to make new bird watchers of all ages. But I really enjoy getting kids into nature via birds, which is why The Young Birder’s Guide is my proudest achievement as an author. It’s the book I wish I’d had as a young bird watcher in the late 1960s.

Thanks, Bill.

And thank you, gentle readers, for your patience with the deadline-impaired.


  1. March 8, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Permalink

    I particularly like the banner and general layout of Bill’s blog (think it’s one of the best of all the bird blogs… simple, neat, but still engaging, not boring). Care to say who gets credit for that??
    And if there’s a better nature writer than “Blogzilla” on the Web today I don’t know who it would be… must be great fun to regularly check out each others’ blogs!

  2. March 10, 2010 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

    As usual, you sell yourself short, BOTB. Find me another blogger with your range–from poetry and haiku and pure photography to informational posts about birds and birding to Giant Things and some of the funniest stuff on the Interwebs. I wish only that you had more time to devote to blogging–we’d all be richer for it. Wren, thanks for this overdue mention to one of nature blogging’s veterans.
    And the design of both our blogs is by Katherine Koch, who is, to put it simply, gifted.