Madison Public Library will begin to offer Birding Backpacks for checkout, thanks to a Madison Public Library Foundation grant and a gift from the Feminist Bird Club – Madison Chapter. 

This past spring, the Feminist Bird Club joined the Great Wisconsin Birdathon to raise funds to buy backpacks stocked with birding equipment and make them available for checkout at the library. The group raised more than $4,000 during the Birdathon, with half the funds supporting Wisconsin’s highest-priority bird conservation projects, and the other half funding one Birding Backpack at each of the library’s nine locations. Madison Public Library Foundation matched that donation by granting funds for an additional nine backpacks. The project’s goal is to eliminate the cost barrier that can come with trying a new hobby like birding: All of the necessary equipment is provided in the backpack.

“Birding is such a joyful hobby, but it can feel exclusionary from the start if you don’t have access to binoculars; they can be a pricey investment,” said Caitlyn Schuchhardt, a Feminist Bird Club – Madison Chapter Leadership Team member. “We wanted to make it easier for those who are ‘bird curious’ to get started with this hobby.”

There are many benefits to birding, including mental health and overall wellness, Schuchhardt said. “Birding can open up a whole new world of wonder and curiosity! You can feel transported to a different place, mentally. Immersing yourself in nature and the wonder of birds can help you step away from the very real problems of the world and find some needed joy,” said Schuchhardt.

Birding Backpacks can be checked out for one week at a time. They are first-come, first-serve; backpacks cannot be placed on hold.

Each Birding Backpack includes:

  • one pair of binoculars for adults
  • one pair of binoculars for kids
  • one Sibley’s field guide for adults
  • one youth field guide, donated by Madison Audubon Society
  • one birding location guide to help you explore potential birding spots near each library

A Madison Public Library card is required to check out a Birding Backpack, and all lost/damaged item protocols will be followed







We Read is funded by Madison Public Library Foundation, Ascendium Education Group, Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, Dick Goldberg and Lisa Munro, and Jane Doughty and David Wood.