ABA Young Birders

ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest

ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest Judges

We admit it...there is nothing easy about judging the ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest! We owe a debt of gratitude to all of those individuals who step forward each year to help us select our contest winner. They spend countless volunteer hours reviewing and providing feedback on each entry submitted by the contestants. Their efforts truly make the contest an educational and memorable experience!

Because of the time-commitment we like to rotate judges year-to-year. If you are interested in becoming a judge, please contact Bill Stewart at bstewart@aba.org.

The judges for the 2014 contest!

Field Notebook Module

Steve N. G. Howell has been watching birds for as long as he can remember – of course, this may simply mean that his memory is not very good. But to help his memory he has well over 100 field notebooks filled with each and every day he has spent birding around the world, from Alaska to Antarctica, Britain to Bolivia, China to Chile, and dawn to dusk. In fact, those notebooks have formed the backbone of several books. Steve is an international bird tour leader with WINGS, a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences, and a widely published author. He recently finished the highly acclaimed photographic guide Petrels, Albatrosses and Storm-Petrels of North America (2012, Princeton University Press), and his various other bird books range in scope from Mexico to molt. Together with Will Russell and Ian Lewington, Steve recently finished the ground-breaking book, Rare Birds of North America, due to be published late in 2013, and recently he branched out into the world of flyingfish, with a book due for publication in 2014. The common thread to his life is that birding should be fun. When not in the field he tries to be in the field.


Mike Powers combined his passions for science, communication, and birding when he joined the Citizen Science program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He started with the Birdhouse Network (now NestWatch), but in 2001 shifted positions to manage the development of the real-time, online checklist program known as eBird. In 2005 Mike shifted to the Conservation Science program to assist in the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. He continues to focus on conservation issues, using acoustics to study nocturnal migrants, as well as species of concern such as Whip-poor-will and Spotted Owl. When not analyzing spectrograms, birding his local patch, or eBirding, Mike is typically absorbed in photography, music, or exploring the outdoors with his wife and daughter. They live outside of Ithaca, NY.

Shawneen Finnegan. Shawneen's artistic parents taught her to draw and paint early in life. As a young adult in the early 1980's she became obsessed with watching birds. Since then she has worn many hats, including artist/illustrator, tour leader and tour manager for WINGS, and Range Data Editor for BirdArea software. Shawneen has served on three different state bird records committees, and is a Nikon Birding ProStaffer. She has traveled widely both at home and abroad. Since leaving her native California she has also lived in the birding Meccas of Cape May, NJ, and Tucson, AZ, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. She continues to meld her artistic talents and love of birds by producing watercolors and scratchboard illustrations that have appeared in private collections, magazines, identification videos, and numerous books and magazine articles. She also enjoys doing pastel pet portraiture. Shawneen recently graduated from Portland State University with a BS in Geography.

Writing Module

Lisa A. White is Director of Guidebooks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She has edited books by many of North America's most well-known birders and is the editor of both the Peterson and Kaufman Field Guide series. An avid birder, she has been a member of the ABA since 2000 and a YBY judge numerous times in the past contests.

Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding, the flagship publication of the American Birding Association. He has published widely on birds and ecological topics. Ted has written more than 125 articles, with contributions to scholarly journals such as Ecology, Oecologia, Animal Behaviour, Journal of Animal Ecology, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution and contributions to popular magazines such as Natural History, Birdwatcher's Digest, and Birding. Ted received a B.A. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 1995. Ted is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and ornithological meetings, and he has led birding trips and workshops throughout North America.


Rick Wright lives in Tucson and in Vancouver, BC, with his wife, Alison Beringer, and their chocolate Lab, Gellert. A native of southeast Nebraska, Rick studied French, German, Philosophy, and Life Sciences at the University of Nebraska before making a detour to Harvard Law School. He took the Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University in 1990, then spent a dozen years as an academic. Rick and Alison moved to Tucson in 2003, where he founded Aimophila Adventures, a guide service for birders; he also served as editor of the ABA’s newsletter, Winging It, from 2004 to 2008. The Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours from 2008 to 2010, Rick is a widely published writer, a popular lecturer at birding events, and an enthusiastic tour leader in Europe and North America. His time afield is documented in his blog, Aimophila Adventures.

Illustration Module

Observing, drawing and painting birds have been a lifelong pursuit for Peter Burke. Beginning at a young age he was mentored by noted Canadian bird painter Fenwick J. Lansdowne, as well as some of Ontario’s finest birders. Peter studied Wildlife Biology at the University of Guelph, while continuing to explore his artistic abilities by taking fine arts courses.
After graduating from the university in 1991 he travelled extensively and began a career in illustration. You can see his work in National Geographic’s Birds of North America, New World Blackbirds: The Icterids (Princeton University Press), A Field Guide to Birds of Chile (Princeton University Press), Birds of Peru (Field Museum of Chicago) among other titles. He also works as a leader for Field Guides Inc. and as a consultant with both government and private sectors in Ontario where he lives.
Today Peter and his wife Dawn live in London, Ontario and their daughters, Jasmine and Zoe and son Evan.


Sophie Webb has drawn and painted wildlife since childhood. The basis of almost all her work is observation and field sketching, combined occasionally with museum specimens; in particular for the field guide plates that she paints. She has traveled as a biologist studying and painting birds from the Amazon to the Arctic and Antarctic. In 1995 she co-authored and illustrated A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. In 2000 she published an award winning children’s book, My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal about studying Adelie Penguins in the Antarctic, where she worked for 5 seasons. Her 2nd children’s book is about seabirds in the Aleutians, Looking for Seabirds: Journal from an Alaskan Voyage. She has worked on numerous cruises as a researcher or naturalist in the Central Pacific, Eastern Tropical Pacific, Atlantic, Antarctic, Aleutians and the Bering Sea and she is a director of Oikonos: Ecosystem Knowledge.

Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, NJ where she is an Associate Naturalist with the Cape May Bird Observatory. As a tour leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, Louise has traveled throughout much of North and South America, and Antarctica. She also enjoys leading birding groups and lecturing at birding festivals. Louise and her husband, Michael O'Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and conferences for many years. Louise is also coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count, and member of the Cape May Artists' Cooperative. An honors graduate of Temple University's Tyler School of Art, she enjoys working as a freelance artist and her illustrations have been widely published.

Photography Module

George Armistead is the events coordinator for the American Birding Association. Prior to that he guided birding tours for 10 years, leading trips to all seven continents. He is a research associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, where he worked at VIREO (Visual Resources for Ornithology) where he learned about bird photography. When not working on bird book projects, he spends his free time observing and photographing birds at his favorite haunts along the coast between Cape May, NJ, and Cape Hatteras, NC.


Bill Schmoker's photos appear in magazines, photographic field guides, bird ID cards, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as artist references (www.schmoker.org/BirdPics). He is also a busy blogger, columnist, instructor, speaker and trip leader, and is a Nikon Birding ProStaffer. When not birding, Bill teaches middle school science and enjoys family life with his wife and 5-year old son.

Tom Johnson is the Photo Quiz Editor for Birding. He studied biology at Cornell University, and is currently surveying seabirds from NOAA ships off the East Coast of North America. Tom's passions include long walks on the beach, dinner by candlelight, and immature hybrid gulls.


Conservation/Community Leadership Module

Jennie Duberstein is the Young Birder Liaison for the ABA. She manages the young birder blog (The Eyrie) and provides support to other young birder programs, including Camp Colorado and the Young Birder of the Year contest. She’s been involved with ABA young birder programs since 1999 as editor of A Bird’s-Eye View, the student newsletter of the ABA, and coordinator the first three young birder conferences. For her day job, Jennie works as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Sonoran Joint Venture, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is also adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona, in the School of the Environment and Natural Resources.

Debbie Beer is committed to connecting young people to birding and nature, especially urban youth from under-served communities. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Friends of Heinz Refuge and Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition in Philadelphia, where she manages programs that promote appreciation and stewardship of the natural world. She participates on a National Friends Committee forum, which provides feedback and informal recommendations to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on making National Wildlife Refuges more engaging and relevant to visitors. As the PA Young Birders Program Director, Debbie meets hundreds of kids each year, involving them in hands-on birding activities, citizen-science bird counts and exciting educational experiences.

Terry Rich has coordinated Partners in Flight (PIF) since 2000. His interests include large-scale, multi-species conservation planning and vulnerability assessment. Publications coauthored to this end include Source Habitats for Terrestrial Vertebrates of Focus in the Interior Columbia Basin (2000), the North American Landbird Conservation Plan (2004), and the Partners in Flight Tri-National Vision for Landbird Conservation (2010). He evaluates grant proposals for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act program, serves on the Global Important Bird Areas Technical Committee for the National Audubon Society, and is a member of the Global Flyways Working Group of the Convention for Migratory Species. Terry has served on the Board and as president of the Cooper Ornithological Society and on the Council of the American Ornithologists' Union. Terry lives in Boise with his wife, 3 children and 4 grand-children where he will begin a PhD in Public Policy this fall.