So, I think I found a weird way to get my non birding co-workers to learn bird identification. My current job requires that I have an office with a desk. Most of the time, I’m outdoors but some days, I do have to report to a desk. Fortunately, there are windows so I can look outside.

We get lots of birds passing through, like our regular band of Wild Turkeys that roam our parking lot. But since I have windows next to my desk, I of course put up window feeders (you can see one in the above photo). This at first was met with a dubious reaction, “Won’t birds fly into the glass?”

Well, no. Sometimes window feeders will encourage birds to slow down rather than trying to fly through the window. Gradually, my co-workers have been getting more into the spirit of things and noticing the birds coming up. I felt like maybe I was making some in roads…

Until one day I was walking into the building and I noticed that someone had added some decor to one of my window feeders:

Nice cat.  Thanks, guys.

But there has been a gradual change. One of the perks of office days is that we have epic rubber band wars. We don’t just use thin rubber bands, we use large thick ones. Some trusted and true missiles have names like “Widow-maker” and “Banana Split Your Head.”

We take our rubber band wars very seriously. One day while I was a doing a field work,  a goldfinch was at the feeder and one of my over-excited coworkers aimed and shot a rubber band that ricocheted right off the glass where the feeder was placed. A fellow non-birding co-worker yelled at him, asked what he was doing and warned that he should never do that again.

When I arrived at my desk the next day, I received sheepish apologies for aiming rubber bands at the glass and trying to hit birds at the feeder. Not long after that, I noticed a House Sparrow on the feeder. I’m not a fan of having these non native species at the feeder–they kill native birds like Eastern Bluebirds to take over their nesting cavities. Then an idea hit me…my non birding coworkers could flick rubber bands off the window if there is a house sparrow at the window feeder.

When I announced this eyes lit up. But, I warned, they had to make sure they knew what a house sparrow looked like. Instantly Google image search was used an I saw House Sparrow images on surrounding screens. Now, before someone shoots they’ll ask what the bird is or say, “That’s a House Finch, right? Can’t hit that.”

This may be the sneakiest way I’ve ever taught bird ID.



Written by Birdchick
Sharon Stiteler was given a Peterson Field Guide to Birds when she was seven years old and snapped. She loves birds - it’s just the way she’s wired. Since 1997, she has made it her goal to get paid to go birding. She runs the popular birding blog,, and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News as well as making regular appearances on Twin Cities’ TV and radio stations. She’s a professional speaker and story-teller and her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds. When she’s not digiscoping, tweeting or banding birds, she’s a part-time park ranger and award-winning beekeeper.