Birder fights for conservation with pen |

Birder fights for conservation with pen

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Don McIvor, Nevada director of bird conservation for the Audubon Society, speaks near the Carson River about his new book, "Important Bird Areas of Nevada."

Don McIvor spends his life looking to the skies. His work often finds him trekking through unspoiled or nearly untouched portions of the Silver State, and his mission is to see that they remain that way.

McIvor, a Carson City resident and Nevada director of bird conservation for the Audubon Society, works to preserve and protect the wildlife and habitat across the state. In December, he added a weapon to the fight for conservation by releasing a book he wrote titled “Important Bird Areas of Nevada.”

“This book formalizes the recognition of the 39 bird areas in the state, plus it’s an outreach tool and a communication tool,” McIvor said.

The book is part of a larger conservation initiative and describes the importance of each of the areas as it relates to Nevada’s birds, including the reasoning for the site’s selection and the conservation challenges it will face in the future.

McIvor said that while each site has specific challenges, the majority of them stem from more universal conservation problems.

“The threats vary by what region the areas are in. There’s some issues that are tied together, like fire and lots of weeds,” McIvor said. “Water is the biggest statewide issue. Managing our water resources will be the biggest issue in the future. Eighty percent of our wildlife depends on surface water.”

The book is the culmination of four years of work by McIvor, whose love of birding began during his college days when – while working towards his master’s degree – he studied the habits of cranes.

“I had to watch them, and I figured, why not see what else is out there?” McIvor said.

The 39 sites comprise about 10 percent of the state’s total land area and include Lahontan Valley, Ruby Lake Refuge and the area surrounding Pyramid Lake.

In his work for the Audubon Society, McIvor said he has encountered the entire range of birders.

“Bird watchers range from people who like to see the birds that land at their feet to those that will drive all night to get a glimpse of a rare bird,” McIvor said.

He said most members of the birding community understand the stereotype associated with birders and are able to joke about it. But he points out that there are more birders than people may think.

“The Audubon Society has two chapters in Nevada, one based in the Reno area that has about 1,000 members, and one based in Las Vegas that has about 1,200 members,” he said.

Now that the areas are outlined, the next step, according to McIvor, is to build a constituency of people interested in going out and working in those areas while continuing to raise awareness about the need for conservation.

Despite the tremendous effort McIvor put forth in compiling and preparing the book, he said its effect will make it all worthwhile.

“This sort of thing is important to me. Our wildlife and habitat needs an advocate,” he said. “We all want to leave a legacy, and I hope I can affect the future of Nevada’s habitat and wildlife.”

— Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.