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To escape the tough streets of Southeast Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s, young Rodney Stotts would ride the metro to the Smithsonian National Zoo. There, the bald eagles and other birds of prey captured his imagination for the first time. In Bird Brother, Rodney shares his unlikely journey to becoming a conservationist and one of America’s few Black master falconers.
Rodney grew up during the crack epidemic, with guns, drugs, and the threat of incarceration an accepted part of daily life for nearly everyone he knew. To rent his own apartment, he needed a paycheck—something the money from dealing drugs didn’t provide. For that, he took a position in 1992 with a new nonprofit, the Earth Conservation Corps. Gradually, Rodney fell in love with the work to restore and conserve the polluted Anacostia River that flows through D.C. As conditions along the river improved, he helped to reintroduce bald eagles to the region and befriended an injured Eurasian Eagle Owl named Mr. Hoots, the first of many birds whose respect he would work hard to earn.
Bird Brother is a story about pursuing dreams against all odds, and the importance of second chances. Rodney’s life was nearly upended when he was arrested on drug charges in 2002. The jail sentence sharpened his resolve to get out of the hustling life. With the fierceness of the raptors he had admired for so long, he began to train to become a master falconer and to develop his own raptor education program and sanctuary. Rodney’s son Mike, a D.C. firefighter, has also begun his journey to being a master falconer, with his own kids cheering him along the way.
Eye-opening, witty, and moving, Bird Brother is a love letter to the raptors and humans who transformed what Rodney thought his life could be. It is an unflinching look at the uphill battle Black children face in pursuing stable, fulfilling lives, a testament to the healing power of nature, and a reminder that no matter how much heartbreak we’ve endured, we still have the capacity to give back to our communities and follow our wildest dreams.
"Stotts’s gift for storytelling, as an educator and public speaker, is on full display in this remarkable memoir; it’s thought-provoking, moving, and inspiring." - starred review
"The book is embellished with impressive photographs that capture the beautiful relationships between Stotts and his bird friends. The loving relationship that can be cultivated between humans and the amazing birds is shown through charming moments between the birds and Stotts’s audience, too. Bird Brother is a memoir that is apt in its demonstration of nature’s ability to transform people."
"A gripping memoir that will leave readers looking to the sky...A powerful Black voice in the predominantly white canon of nature writing,... His book is filled with hope, love, and the importance of second chances—for injured birds and humans alike."
"Keeping birds of prey is never easy, as anyone who has read other falconry books knows. But Stotts dealt with a particularly tough road,shadowed by incarceration, the deaths of family and friends, and racism....Particularly inspirational is Stotts teaching his own son to be a falconer."
Cool Green Science
"If you’ve loved H is for Hawk or any sort of memoir that intersects with nature, you’ll like this one!"
Smart Bitches Trashy Books
"It’s amazing and inspiring to read about someone with such commitment to honoring the wild dreams of his childhood."
"Stotts’ journey of self-discovery is an astonishing and heart-warming account that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it."
City Book Review
"This was an inspiring read, not only as a fellow Black man with a love for helping others and caring for the environment, but also as someone who has dealt with obstacle after obstacle, yet still finds the hope to remain determined and joyful as I pursue my goal."
Birding Magazine | American Birding Association
"This book is about so much more than birds. Rodney Stotts—one of the few Black master falconers in the country—recalls how his passion for birds of prey transformed his life. It’s an ode to both human strength and resilience and the powerful bond between people and animals."
"Stott’s uplifting memoir demonstrates both the healing power of nature and the capacity we all have to overcome hardship and pursue our dreams."
"Bird Brother is a very personal story of hope, redemption and sheer guts…. What really comes across in this book is Stotts’ love of what he does and the constructive role that nature has played in his life journey."
"Humanity and hawks. The lines between two-legged and taloned blur beautifully in Bird Brother. Rodney Stotts’ life is more than a story of man and nature, it is a no holds barred bittersweet odyssey; the much-needed, uplifted, uniquely-hued heroic epic of a determined soul who through a love of wild birds, delivers a heart-rending lesson in how grounded possibilities can soar beyond perception. There is no more powerfully positive sign of these times than a hawk on Rodney's raised fist."
J. Drew Lanham, cultural & conservation ornithologist, birder, and author of "The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature"
"My overwhelming refrain to Rodney Stotts is ‘thank you.’ His story, and the pictures he paints as he tells it, are the most incredible demonstration of the substance of hope. He beautifully captures the complex, and often visceral, nature of finding life within death through the liberation that comes with 'looking up.'"
Corina Newsome, ornithologist and environmental activist
"Rodney Stotts' story is a tremendously moving tribute to the power of birds to transform a life. Searingly honest, Bird Brother is a love letter to the avian world from a fiercely dedicated master falconer and tireless conservationist who not only does the work—no matter how unglamorous—but also inspires others to see the beauty of nature and find their place within it."
Julia Zarankin, author of "Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder"
About the Authors
Rodney Stotts is one of America’s few Black master falconers. On this webinar, Rodney will share his story as a Black child facing dangerous threats, and how he transformed his life through the healing power of nature. You will learn about the sanctuary he is building where others can be inspired by nature and wildlife. You will be reminded that no matter how much heartbreak we have endured, we still have the capacity to give back to our communities and change lives. Rodney's upcoming book Bird Brother: A Falconer's Journey and the Healing Power of Wildlife hits shelves in February.
In the late 1980s, young Rodney Stotts would ride the metro from his home in Southeast Washington, D.C. to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Rodney grew up with guns, drugs, and the threat of incarceration an accepted part of daily life for nearly everyone he knew, but at the National Zoo, the Bald Eagles and other birds of prey captured his imagination.
This presentation will cover:
Join The Cornell Lab of Ornithology as we welcome back Rodney Stotts, one of America’s few Black master falconers, to celebrate the release of his first book, Bird Brother: A Falconer's Journey and the Healing Power of Wildlife, which revolves around pursuing dreams against all odds and the importance of second chances. Listen as Rodney shares his story as a Black child facing dangerous threats to transforming his life through the healing power of nature. Rodney reminds us that no matter how much heartbreak we have endured, we still have the capacity to give back to our communities and follow our wildest dreams.
Soul Trak Outdoors: Black Outdoor Leader's Spotlight
February 9, 2022
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Rodney Stotts is one of America’s few Black master falconers. When he was growing up in S.E. DC, it seemed as though his life would take a very different path. But Rodney is living proof of second chances and his story is a testament to the transformative power of nature.
In the soon to be released book Bird Brother: A Falconer's Journey and the Healing Power of Wildlife, Rodney Stotts and Kate Pipkin share Rodney’s captivating, deeply personal tale. Publication Date: February 3, 2022. A starred review from Library Journal says: “Stotts’s gift for storytelling, as an educator and public speaker, is on full display in this remarkable memoir; it’s thought-provoking, moving, and inspiring.”
Join Audubon Mid-Atlantic for an intimate conversation with author Rodney Stotts, one of the country's leading Black master falconers and committed conservationists. The afternoon begins with a screening of “The Falconer”, a moving documentary that “…follows master falconer Rodney Stotts on his mission to build a bird sanctuary and provide access to nature for his stressed community". The film will be followed by an interview with Mr. Stotts as well as an opportunity for him to sign his autobiographical book, Bird Brother.
Registration is free and recommended, walk-ins are welcome!
For more information, please contact Damien Ruffner at email@example.com.
In a commentary piece written in collaboration with the Urban Resilience Project, Rodney Stotts (author of Bird Brother) writes that to truly understand themselves and others, children need regular chances to go outside traditional classroom walls.
For many adults, being outside in nature was a welcome remedy to the isolation brought on by COVID. But children need that restoration even more. A recent study by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Sussex found that children who increased their interaction with nature during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom had lower levels of behavioral and emotional challenges while navigating the pandemic.
Read the full article published in U.S. News & World Report HERE.
Kyler Geoffroy is the Online Marketing Manager for Island Press