Winging It

Meet the Editor of Birders Guide

Michael L. P. Retter

Michael Retter at El TajÍn.

Michael Retter at El TajÍn.

Michael was raised by three previous generations of central Illinoisans to have a deep appreciation for nature, but he took it a step further. His mother distinctly remembers being woken up at 6 o'clock on a Saturday morning by a 7-year-old who demanded she get out of bed to take a photograph of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the front yard. His dad is fond of telling the story of him bolting out of the house, shoeless, after his first Bald Eagle on a snowy January day.

In 2002 Michael received a B.A. in Biology from Illinois Wesleyan University, where he also studied classical voice as a music minor. He took regular road trips with friends into Mexico during holiday vacations. The birds, culture, and (particularly Oaxacan) cuisine proved so addictive that he has been tourleading there ever since. During and after college, he worked five consecutive seasons with the National Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory on their Monitoring Birds of the Black Hills project. It's a beautiful area he never tires of visiting.

Complementing his position at Birder’s Guide, Michael puts his penchant for “correct” grammar and his interest in the minutiae of bird identification, taxonomy, and distribution to use as Technical Reviewer and "Sightings" Department Editor for Birding magazine. He was the most recent editor of the ABA’s now retired newsletter, Winging It. Michael’s roots with ABA run deep. He participated heavily in ABA's youth program in the late '90s and early oughts: contributing artwork and writing to the student newsletter, participating in the Young Birder of the Year contest, going to youth conferences, and attending two camps as a teenager. He credits these experiences with giving him the experience necessary for and making the connections that led him to his current career as Birder’s Guide editor and his former career as a birding tour leader. Michael's tourleading has taken him across the Americas (from Canada to Ecuador) and to Australasia. He still leads tours part-time.

Michael is a regular speaker at birding festivals and bird club meetings across North America. He currently serves as Chair of the Indiana Bird Records Committee and helps review eBird records from Illinois and Indiana. He has been a contributor of both prose and artwork to Meadowlark, the journal of the Illinois Ornithological Society, for well over 10 years. He also runs GBNA, the continent's email list and informal club for LGBT birders. In that capacity, he has helped organize and run four biennial group meetings. Michael currently lives with his fiancé, Matt, in Fort Worth, Texas. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics.

To see some of Michael's artwork and learn more about him, check out his webpage at