Bird watching for the blind

Living on Earth

Story by Living on Earth. Listen to audio above for full interview.

An hour north of Boston is the Park River National Wildlife Refuge, a 46 hundred-acre birder paradise. People come to the area to view birds throughout the year. Among those appreciating the birds are some who are doing so without the use of their sight.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Birding by Ear program helps the blind experience birding using their other senses: hearing and smell. Groups from the Lowell Association for the Blind have been attending this workshop since it started 11 years ago.

Bill Gette is Sanctuary Director of the Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. He also leads Birding by Ear groups through the Refuge.

“It’s a really important part of the Massachusetts Audubon mission to get out and try to get as many people excited about the natural world and conserving it as we possibly can,” said Getter. “In some cases actually to survey birds, it’s better to listen for them because you’ve seen two birds but I’m sure there are at least 20 that we’ve already experienced but we’ve only seen two.”

Among those listening for the birds is 84-year-old George Desmaris. Desmaris became legally blind due to cataracts. “just can’t see them as well but I enjoy it just as much as I did before,” said Desmaris.

Read the full transcript on the Living on Earth website.


Hosted by Steve Curwood, “Living on Earth” is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. 

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