Dare to Bird

Exploring the Joy and Healing Power of Birds

ISBN 9781771606547
Hardcover | Publication Date: June 18, 2024
Book Dimensions: 8.5 x 9.5
224 Pages

About the Book

A powerful photographic journey that celebrates the healing power of birds.

Melissa Hafting is an ethical, passionate, and respected birder, photographer, and mentor. Her love for birding has helped shape who she is and has helped with her mental health, along with enabling her to cope with the difficult aspects of grief and loss after the death of her mother and father.

Showcasing some of Melissa’s most stunning bird images from the continental United States, Hawaii, and Canada, Dare to Bird explores the joy that birding and photography has brought to her life and how both have allowed her to foster meaningful connections with young birders from diverse backgrounds, along with the conservation community, eco-travel advocates, rare bird enthusiasts, and ethical wildlife viewing practitioners in order to preserve bird habitats that are constantly under threat. At the same time, she is determined to expand birding to include more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), women, and LGBTQIA+ through youth outreach and talking about the barriers (racism and sexism) she herself has faced in her journey to become part of the birding community.

The magical imagery of birds is unparalleled in this inspiring collection, and Hafting helps the reader to understand why – as she believes – birds have the power to both save and heal us amid many of life’s challenges.


About the Author(s)

Melissa Hafting is an ecologist, bird guide, author, and photographer. She founded the BC Young Birders Program in 2014, which aims to bring together youth of all races, sexual orientations, and genders to look at birds on fun excursions in the natural world. The program also helps teach youth about citizen science and the importance of birdconservation. She is also passionate about making birding more inclusive for all, especially for BIPOC birders like herself. She is an avid traveller and loves to explore the world looking for birds. Melissa is an eBird reviewer for the province of BC and sits on the board of directors of the Frontiers in Ornithology Association and Wild Bird Trust of BC. She was also a judge for the 2022 and 2023 Audubon Photography Awards, the recipient of BC Nature’s 2021 Daphne Solecki Award for contributing to nature education for children in British Columbia, a finalist for the 2021 Nature Inspiration Awards for the Canadian Museum of Nature, a lead in the 2020 CBC TV documentary, Rare Bird Alert, and winner of the 2024 Alan Duncan Bird Conservation Award. Her photography can be viewed on her Instagram account @bcbirdergirl (+10,000 followers). Melissa lives in Richmond, British Columbia.


Dare to Bird dares to challenge us to move beyond the politically subjected “colorblind” excuse for not celebrating human diversity, and asks us to see the same colorful world behind the bins as we see beyond the lens, to celebrate ourselves as part of a wider field of view. Inclusion matters ecologically and sociologically, and author Melissa “BC Birdergirl” Hafting crafts conversations that bring joy bird by bird in a book that’s as much about hope for humanity as it is about aspirations for the things with feathers.” —J. Drew Lanham, birder, ornithologist, naturalist, hunter/conservationist, Clemson University professor of wildlife ecology with a research focus on songbirds, and widely published essayist and poet, author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts

“Like Melissa Hafting, I enjoy helping others via email. And throughout our more than seven years of such correspondence, Mel’s questions indicated a sharp and enthusiastic birder whose passion and curiosity transcended simple species identification to delve into molt status, age/sex, subspecies, and various wondrous behaviors. But email does not always fully reveal a person: what they stand for, what adversities they have faced. In Dare to Bird, through exquisite and spectacular photographs and words of pleasing cadence, you really get to know Melissa: her sense of wonder, eye for beauty, and passion for sharing her love of birds with youth and those less privileged. For the stewardship of birds and the well-being of the increasingly diverse populace she encourages to enjoy them, I highly recommend this unique and important effort. Dare to Bird!” —Peter Pyle, ornithologist and marine biologist, The Institute for Bird Populations, birdpop.org

“With Dare To Bird, Melissa Hafting bares her soul and brings us along on her personal journey through the extreme grief of losing her parents. But she also shows us the way back to happiness, through her lifelong attachment to birds.” —Paul Riss, birder, founding partner of ROUND

“Featuring stunning photos of birds from all across North America, Melissa Hafting weaves her rich life and birding experiences in Dare to Bird, illustrating just how much birds can teach us about healing, resilience and courage.” —Alice Sun, journalist, author of Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide

“Melissa’s story is one of triumph over a range of adversities. She eloquently demonstrates, through her words and her phenomenal photography in this beautifully designed book, the healing power of birds and birding. Melissa truly is a champion for encouraging more diversity in birding.” —David Lindo, vice-president of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, honorary president of the Colombia Bird Fair and voted seventh most influential person in wildlife by BBC Wildlife magazine

“The first time I read through this book I frequently caught myself exclaiming Yes! Melissa Hafting’s love and enthusiasm for birds (and those that seek them) is undeniable and infectious. As someone who has lived outside North America for a decade now, I found her stories and photographs cathartic. Birds are beautiful, birds are surprising, birds are a window into an ecosystem’s health, But for those that spend countless hours in their presence, each one is also a memory, a symbol of time well spent in nature with friends and family. I truly believe we are all birders at heart. Birds are for everyone, and we should all follow Melissa’s example. Find a young person and take them outside. It’s amazing what can happen.” —Russell Cannings, co-author of Best Places to Bird in British Columbia and Birdfinding in British Columbia

Dare to Bird is a personal journey of how Melissa Hafting’s passion for birds sustained her spirits through periods of grief and anxiety. Lavishly illustrated with the author’s superlative photography, this beautiful book is a celebration of her lifelong love for birds.” —Rob Butler, author and ornithologist

“When we look closely, birds can offer us the tools to navigate life’s most joyous and most difficult moments. With her deep affinity for birds, Melissa Hafting turns to nature to find community, intrigue, peace, and the strength to carry on. Her stunning photography, paired with her impactful collection of essays, makes Dare to Bird a book to rejoice in and return to.” —Danielle Belleny, author of This is a Book for People Who Love Birds and The Junior Birder’s Handbook

Dare to Bird is a loving tribute to wild birds and the resilience and healing they can provide us if we are open to allowing them to be companions along our life’s journey. Melissa Hafting relays the message that you are not alone when you are with birds, not only through her heartfelt words but also through her breathtaking photography in the book. With each turn of the page, Dare to Bird will transport readers into the world of birds and birding in a way that feels supportive and inviting for all people while promoting the many benefits wild birds offer.” —Holly Merker, co-author of Ornitherapy: For Your Mind, Body and Soul and Die Kraft der Vogelbeobachtung

“Melissa Hafting has crafted a book that is a pure and exquisite joy to read. Its exceptionally beautiful photos and poignant words evoke the wondrous feeling of being awakened by birdsong, which for me is the lilting voice of the white-crowned sparrow calling the dawn. I believe this book will introduce many readers to the wonder of birds and their significance as sentinels for our natural world, and stimulate a determination to protect this world.” —Cheryl Alexander, author of Takaya: Lone Wolf, Good Morning, Takaya, and Takaya’s Journey as well as a documentary film about Takaya

“An important, inspiring and deeply moving read that reminds us of the multi-faceted role nature plays in our lives. Melissa Hafting bravely showcases her humanity in her interactions with her family, her community and the birds themselves. Presented with her spectacular photography, this book takes you on a journey that simply makes you want to get outside and go birding.” —Liron Gertsman, award-winning nature photographer and conservation photojournalist whose work has been shown in venues such as the Natural History Museum in London, UK, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC

Dare to Bird takes us on a journey through the wondrous world of birds, a journey that brings healing and hope in the face of devastating personal tragedy. Melissa Hafting shows us that connecting to birds can lift us out of despair, unite us with others, and spark moments of joy and serenity that, quite simply, give us reason to live. Her gorgeous photographs capture the essence of both common and rare birds, and along with her text teach us why we should care about helping these creatures to not only survive but thrive. Hafting’s devotion to birds, birding, and conservation will inspire readers of all ages. I stand in awe.” —Melissa Groo, award-winning photographer whose work has appeared on covers of Audubon, Smithsonian, Living Bird and Outdoor Photographer magazines and in publications ranging from National Geographic to National Wildlife to Natural History. She is also a widely consulted expert on ethics in wildlife photography.

Dare to Bird showcases Melissa Hafting’s genuine passion for birds, conveyed not only through her heartfelt words and personal stories but also through her incredibly beautiful photographs. She reminds us of the profound ability of birds to connect us to the wonders of nature, to our communities, to other people of all backgrounds, to our friends and loved ones, both those currently present and those we have sadly lost, and ultimately to ourselves.” —Colleen Gara, multi-award-winning nature photographer whose images and writing have appeared in Nature TTL, Wildlands Advocate, Audubon, Canadian Geographic and Photo Life magazines as well as in The Globe and Mail, National Post and Calgary Herald

“… the main draw [of Dare to Bird] is Hafting’s eye-catching photos, which capture a bald eagle in flight, the male greater sage-grouse’s mating dance, and hundreds of nesting common murres on a Newfoundland cliff face. It’s a deeply personal love letter to birding.” Publishers Weekly

“An ally to everyone who has ever experienced discrimination while birding, Melissa Hafting opens a fascinating window into the ebb and flow of collective joy and grief. In Dare to Bird these murmurations of our own psyches are illustrated by Melissa’s lived experience and the countless parallels she draws between our existence and that of the birds. Her absolutely stunning photography is the perfect complement, giving all of us the opportunity to be captivated by the same sights she shared with her closest companions.” —Faraaz Abdool, wildlife photographer, speaker, birding guide and environmental advocate; author of Casual Birding in Trinidad & Tobago

Dare to Bird by Melissa Hafting is a thoughtful and visually stunning work that will connect with nature lovers, birders, and those who appreciate the beauty of the written word. Its striking photographs and prose combine to take us through a unique, deep, and at times challenging view of the world of birds and birding. Melissa is also a clear voice on the importance of diversity and inclusion, and this resonates throughout her work. Dare to Bird stands as a touch point of inspiration for the next generation of young birders, a connection very close to Melissa’s heart, as she has been a dedicated mentor to young birders for many years. Dare to Bird is a book to enjoy, and one that will have you reaching for your binoculars and plotting your next bird adventure.” —Cameron D. Eckert, conservation biologist, author of Birds of the Yukon Territory