By Adam Dhalla
A few years ago, I viewed Snowy Owls on the shores of Boundary Bay, British Columbia. As I took in this amazing sight, I wondered why no other children were present. This moment was the genesis of Find the Birds, the free educational mobile game about bird conservation I co-created with my dad.
Find the Birds is a bridge from screen time to green time. I conceived of it to get my peers excited about nature. As an avid gamer and winner of the 2018 American Birding Association Young Birder of the Year Award, I envisioned a new type of entertainment, one where birds and content were indicative of reality, not fantasy. After working hard with the artists and programmers of the non-profit Thought Generation Society, I’m pleased to say my vision is now a reality: a free-to-play, zero-carbon, COVID-19-safe, ad-free, Canadian-made, innovative way to get kids into birds and conservation.
Sawmill Lake, BC
Since its launch six months ago with an initial “Arizona” simulated birding location, Find the Birds has accrued over 7000 players in 46 countries on six continents. The game allows players to explore realistic habitats, find accurately animated local bird species, take virtual photos, and complete conservation quests. Find the Birds continues to grow, in both scope and audience. Recently, the British Columbia location was added, featuring Sawmill Lake in the Okanagan Valley, Tofino on the coast, and a pelagic journey in the Pacific Ocean.
Out of all the respondents, 98% said the game increased their appreciation of birds
To assess the game’s impact on conservation education, I recently conducted an online player survey. Of the 101 players who completed the survey, 71% were in the 8 – 15-year age group, which means I am reaching my peers. But 21% were late teens and adults, so the game’s appeal is not limited to children. Approximately half were male and the other half, female; this equality is encouraging, as most games have a much smaller percentage of female players.
Pelagic boat tour
Out of all the respondents, 98% said the game increased their appreciation of birds, 85% stated it improved their knowledge of birds, and 84% reported it made them birdwatch more. The game increased knowledge of conservation for 56% of the players, and 47 of them said they volunteered with real-world conservation organizations because of playing the game. The average player rating was 4.5 out of 5 stars.
As a result of the game’s reputation and the above impressive data, I was invited to present my findings at the 2022 International Ornithological Congress. So, I plan to travel to Durban, South Africa, next August to spread word of the value such a new method can have at reaching and teaching a new generation of birders, ornithologists, and conservationists. To learn more about Find the Birds and to download the game for free for your Apple and Android phones and tablets, please visit findthebirds.com
The British Columbia game location was made possible by funding from Wildlife Habitat Canada.
Adam Dhalla lives in Coquitlam, BC, where he is an avid nature photographer, gamer, and birdwatcher, and high school student.