By Mary O’KEEFE
A future ornithologist is one of 16 young people from the nation awarded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds across North America. Established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders from age 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities and the environment, according to barronprize.org. Since its inception the organization has awarded over a half a million dollars to hundreds of kids.
Among the 2016 honorees selected, six were from California and one, Dessi Sieburth, is from Montrose. Sieburth, 14, was selected for the creation of his Protecting Our Birds project.
“My project is to create a safe habitat [for birds],” Sieburth explained.
He does this in various ways including building safe habitats and by educating the community on the need to be concerned about our feathered friends.
“I was a Boy Scout and when I was 8 years old we were [working on] a woodworking badge,” he said. “I made a bird feeder.”
From that point his interest was piqued in how to protect birds. He said that outdoor cats determine many birds’ fates, and this was the highest risk factor for wild birds. Development is another growing concern.
“Habitats have been lost for our birds,” he said.
Sieburth said that as communities become “park poor” they will become bird poor as well. Development without considering wildlife has a direct affect on wildlife.
“Everything is part of the eco system chain,” he said.
Sieburth added that as the bird population decreases, the insect population would grow, which not only affects communities but farms.
As natural habitats diminish, Sieburth said he has come up with an idea for helping at least one type of bird – the bluebird.
“I noticed the need for bluebirds to nest … Normally they use dried, dead trees for their nests,” he said.
As forests decrease and development moves into natural areas, dead trees are taken down. This might be safer for people but is a loss for bluebirds.
Sieburth built 30 boxes for bluebirds to nest in and placed them around the community and surrounding areas like parks, golf courses and horse stables.
“I was able to hang about 21 [boxes] and check them weekly. Over the last three years we have had 263 birds [that used the boxes],” he said.
He has taken action, like setting up the boxes, but he also uses education as a tool to reach out to people about the plight of birds.
“We can attend public hearings to speak on conservation,” he said as one of the ways he reaches out to the community.
He hopes that developers will take birds into consideration when planning their buildings and include trees that could birds could use to nest in.
“Do some mitigation and install some trees,” he added.
The organizers of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes praised his dedication.
“He has presented talks for Audubon chapters, schools and libraries reaching nearly 1,000 people. He has raised nearly $1,000 to protect local canyon and wildlife corridors by photographing as many species of birds as he could in one day and collecting donations from Audubon Society members for each bird photographed,” stated the Gloria Barron Prize organization.
Seiburth will continue to help birds. He plans on becoming an ornithologist when he graduates from high school. His high school – St. Francis High School – is perhaps most appropriate for Seiburth because the school is named after Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and natural environments.
The Pasadena Audubon Society has started a young birders club for teenagers, which Deesi is a part of. Anyone who would like to financially support the club can make a check out to the Pasadena Audubon society and note “Young Birders Club” in the memo section.