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Young birder struts his stuff at festival

Published June 28, 2012 10:02 am

Ivan Richardson • The 8-year-old can rattle off scores of avian facts, and tell apretty good joke, too.
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Tom Richardson didn't realize a simple family outing would turn into passionate pasttime for his 5-year-old son.

He took his family, including son Ivan Richardson, to a birding festival, and his now 8-year-old son has had birds on the brain ever since.

Ivan went to the library and checked out books and would study for hours.

"It's been fun to do this together with Ivan," said Tom Richardson.

Father and son took an ornithology course together at Dixie State College, located in the family's home town of St. George. Ivan studied hard, sat on the front row, interacted with the college students and successfully completed the class.

"There was one test where he was the only one in the course who aced it," Richardson said.

Ivan is a member of the Red Cliffs Audubon Society in St. George, and he was a featured artist at the St. George Winter Bird Festival.

The father-son duo recently presented at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival at the Davis County Legacy Events Center in Farmington.

The entire family — including, aunts, uncles and cousins — came to support Ivan during his presentation. The father-and-son team shared their passion for birds and presented fun facts about 15 birds found in Utah. They invited bird watchers to become involved in a study being done by Cornell Lab of Ornithology called Celebrate Urban Birds.

"The American Crow is one of the smartest birds in the world. It drops nuts that are too hard to crack on the road, waits for cars to run over them, then flies down and eats the inside of the nut," Tom Richardson said.

Ivan plans to make a career of bird watching and wants to be an ornithologist when he grows up.

"Birds are fascinating animals. There are more than 10,000 species in the world. Some are tiny like humming birds and some are big like ostriches. Some can fly fast and some can't fly at all. Some can run fast and some can swim. Some fly 15,000 miles twice a year. Then there are birds that don't migrate. There is so much variety when it comes to birds. They are the most diverse animals in the kingdom but hey all have one thing in common, feathers. The more you learn about birds the more fun it is to watch them," Ivan said as he rattled off facts about birds as he explained his great love for birds.

He also knows how to have fun, showing off his large repertoire of bird jokes.

"Where does a peacock go when he loses his tail? A retail store!" joked Ivan.

Others at the festival respected and appreciated his knowledge and devotion.

"I love his enthusiasm. He makes me excited about birding, like I was a little kid. His enthusiasm is so contagious, he is so excited at such a young age," said Greg Miller, an avid birder and subject of the book "The Big Year" and the subsequent movie starring Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson.

When Bird Festival Chairwoman Neka Roundy watches Ivan, she sees the future of birding.

"He is the next generation of birders," she said. "He will carry on for us."