Mike Blackbird, Pilchuck Audubon Society board president
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Mike Blackbird (center) visits Spencer Island Park last week with a birding group that meets every Tuesday.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Mike Blackbird, president of the Pilchuck Audubon Society, watches for birds over the mouth of the Snohomish River during a birding expedition Tuesday.
Q: How did your name direct your hobby?
A: It didn't at all. I just gravitated to birds. My wife and I, when we lived in Santa Barbara, when we were much younger, we discovered these white-tailed kites that were nesting. They are exceptionally beautiful birds and at one time endangered. It's a member of the falcon family. Very streamlined.
A lot of birders are called to birding by what's known as "the seminal bird," something they all of a sudden see that piques their interest, and it goes from there.
Q: Would you change your name if you could and why or why not?
A: Heavens no. When you're a kid, a name like Blackbird means you'll suffer the traumas of childhood, and I don't think back longingly about it. But as an adult, I think it's distinctive. I don't run into too many Blackbirds, though I have run into some, and it's a strong name.
It's not like, "I have the name Blackbird so I've gotta join the Audubon Society." That isn't how it happened. I didn't give it a lot of thought. It has had more impact on people who meet me than it ever did for me personally.
And now I'm 6 foot tall and weigh 230 pounds and nobody picks on me anymore.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: One thing is that having spent a career in sales when I retire soon, I'm going to be spending more time as an advocate for Pilchuck. We view ourselves as the environmental conscience for Snohomish County, so as an advocate, I will be essentially a salesman.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: Many people say "That's fitting." Or they ask if I did that on purpose, and I often tell them it's an aptonym, and then I generally have to explain what an aptonym is.
I never had heard the term before about three or four years ago and someone from your organization told me what it was, and I said, "Well, that's cool. Now I have something to tell people."
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and hobby? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: If they ask if I changed my name on purpose, I remind them that the executive director of the national Audubon society is a fellow by the name of Flicker, and that a Whatcom County Audubon guy is named "Woodcock," so I guess the same questions could be asked of them.
Blackbird also is a sales manager for a health care company called Cardinal. His e-mail address is: email@example.com.
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