Helping Birds Through Photography

Dessi Sieburth

Taking photographs of birds is one of my favorite hobbies. In addition to taking photos for fun, I have used my photos for conservation purposes to spread awareness about helping birds. Many bird populations are declining, and birds need our help. They face many threats including habitat loss, outdoor cats, rat poison, window crashes, trash, pesticides, and lead in the environment. I have used several of my photos for conservation articles, photo exhibits, and presentations to educate people about the challenges birds face and how they can help birds. I also used my photos for a fundraiser to save habitat for birds. I have been taking photos on my birding trips in California, Alaska, Texas, and Arizona. My main goal when photographing birds is to bring the beauty of birds to people because I think that when people see how beautiful birds are, they are more willing to protect them. Here are some examples of how I help birds with my photography.

I also like to teach adults and kids about ethics in bird photography. Here are some important things to remember when photographing birds.

  • never lure in a bird with bait. For example, never use mice to attract owls or hawks to get a photo of the bird.
  • always keep your distance from birds, especially nesting birds, as they may abandon their nest if bothered.
  • use bird recordings responsibly and never use recordings to attract endangered birds.
  • never trample or alternate habitat to get closer to a bird or to get a better photo.
  • don’t get to close to a bird, when a bird changes its behavior and flies away you are too close. Birds need their energy for feeding and nesting.

Special thanks to Los Angeles Audubon Society, Pasadena Audubon Society, La Crescenta Library and Diggs Art Gallery in Montrose. All photos were taken by Dessi Sieburth (


 This photo of a Bohemian Waxwing was taken in Denali National Park, Alaska, in July. It was raining lightly while I took this photo. It was part of two bird photography exhibitions. One exhibit was at a library in La Crescenta, and the other exhibit was at an art gallery in my hometown, Montrose, CA. At the openings of both exhibits, I gave presentations about what people can do to help birds in their neighborhoods. For example, I talked about the dangers of rat poison, to never leave cats outside, and that people need to plant native plants to help birds.

This male Western Bluebird was nesting in my bluebird nest box in Sylmar, CA. Western Bluebirds are cavity nesters and rely on dead trees. I help cavity nesters by educating people about saving dead trees and by providing nest boxes for cavity nesters. This photo was published in a cavity conservation article in the Los Angeles Audubon newsletter to help cavity nesters.

This Double-crested Cormorant was occasionally flipping its head straight up in the air. I had to take over 100 photos on a tripod to finally get this shot. This photo was also shown at my two photo exhibitions to help birds. I used 70% of the funds I raised from selling my photos for a birding trip to the Pribilof Islands and Nome in Alaska where I did a conservation project on the Bar-tailed Godwit, a declining shorebird who has the longest non-stop migration of all birds. The other 30% of the sales went to the art gallery, who donated the money to help the endangered California Condor.

I took this photo of a Tufted Puffin from a boat out of Homer, AK, on a clear day in July. This photo was especially popular at my photo exhibit because puffins are so beautiful.

Every year, I make calendar with my bird photos. This photo of two White- faced Ibis is from my 2016 annual bird calendar. It was taken at one of my favorite birding spots, Piute Ponds, in Lancaster, CA.

This photo of a male breeding Ruddy Duck was taken at my first “Big Photo Day” in 2014. I went out to photograph as many species as possible in a single day to raise money for habitat conservation. The money I raised went to help save Cottonwood Canyon, an important wildlife corridor in Pasadena.