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Review by Kate Dalgleish, Director Development, Birds Canada

Dare to Bird: Exploring the Joy and Healing Power of Birds, by Melissa Hafting

Rocky Mountain Books, 2024

Hardcover | published June 18, 2024

224 pages

Melissa Hafting’s “Dare to Bird” is a remarkable book that immediately captivates with its stunning visual appeal. As a renowned photographer, Hafting brings her first book to life with an extraordinary collection of bird photographs from common birds found in Canada to the endemics of Hawaii. Each image is a testament to her exceptional talent, capturing not only the remarkable beauty of birds but also their unique behaviours and natural habitats in a way that both passionate birders and those new to the hobby will appreciate.

However, the depth of “Dare to Bird” goes far beyond its breathtaking visuals. Hafting’s writing is equally compelling, as she opens up about her personal journey through profound grief and depression following the loss of both her parents within a short period of time. Her honest reflections on how birding became a source of solace and healing are poignant and inspiring. Hafting’s vulnerability adds a deeply personal layer to the book, making it much more than just a collection of captivating photos.

In addition to her personal narrative, Hafting also uses “Dare to Bird” as a platform for critical conservation messages. As an ecologist, she is acutely aware of the myriad threats facing bird species today, including those in Hawaii and the endangered Spotted Owl. Her call for large-scale changes at federal and provincial levels is urgent and well-articulated, and she offers practical tips that individuals can adopt to contribute to bird conservation efforts in their day-to-day lives.

An American Crow perches in front of me in Richmond, BC. These birds are sometimes vilified as pests but are incredibly intelligent. Photo: Melissa Hafting

Hafting also advocates for greater inclusivity in the birding community. She highlights that birding isn’t safe for everyone, with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) individuals facing significant barriers to entry. Melissa emphasizes the need to make birding more welcoming and accessible to all. As the founder of the BC Young Birders Group, she continues to champion the inclusion of racialized people and those of various gender expressions who are interested in learning more about birds, making her advocacy as impactful as her artistry.

The book is infused with Hafting’s palpable enthusiasm for birds, which shines through on every page. From the majesty of pelagic species to the delicate charm of hummingbirds, her passion is infectious and elevates the reader’s experience.

An adult Tufted Puffin flies over my young birders and me during a pelagic trip in Tofino, BC. Photo: Melissa Hafting

“Dare to Bird” is a triumph, beautifully blending stunning photography, heartfelt personal narrative, and critical environmental advocacy. It’s a must-have for anyone who is passionate about birds and interested in the intersection of nature, healing, and conservation.

You can purchase a copy directly from the publisher, from Indigo, Amazon, or ask your local bookstore if they can order a copy. To hear more from Melissa, she was a guest on a recent episode of The Warblers Podcast where she discussed the healing power of nature.

Melissa Hafting is an ecologist, bird guide, author, and photographer. She founded the BC Young Birders Program in 2014, which aims to bring together youth of all races, sexual orientations, and genders to look at birds on fun excursions in the natural world. The program also helps teach youth about citizen science and the importance of bird conservation. She is also passionate about making birding more inclusive for all, especially for BIPOC birders like herself. She is an avid traveler and loves to explore the world looking for birds. Melissa is an eBird reviewer for the province of BC and sits on the board of directors of the Frontiers in Ornithology Association and Wild Bird Trust of BC. 

She was also a judge for the 2022 and 2023 Audubon Photography Awards, the recipient of BC Nature’s 2021 Daphne Solecki Award for contributing to nature education for children in British Columbia, a finalist for the 2021 Nature Inspiration Awards for the Canadian Museum of Nature, a lead in the 2020 CBC TV documentary, Rare Bird Alert, and winner of the 2024 Alan Duncan Bird Conservation Award. Her photography can be viewed on her Instagram account @bcbirdergirl (+10,000 followers). Melissa lives in Richmond, British Columbia. Photo: Ian Harland

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