Julie Zickefoose


Julie Zickefoose is a widely published natural history writer and artist. Educated at Harvard University in biology and art, she worked for six years as a field biologist for The Nature Conservancy before turning to a freelance art career. Her observations on the natural history and behavior of birds stem from more than three decades of experience in the field. She has presented illustrated lectures for nature organizations and festivals across the country, and exhibited her paintings at universities, museums, galleries, and in juried shows. Illustration credits include The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Spider, Cricket, and Ladybug. She has written and illustrated articles for Country Journal, and Bird Watcher's Digest has published more than 30 of Julie's articles and 17 of her cover paintings since 1986.

Julie has painted color posters and illustrated educational materials for the Laboratory of Ornithology and Cornell University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and the Boy Scouts of America. Reader's Digest Books, Yale University Press, and National Geographic Books have published her illustrations or writing. The American Ornithologists' Union and the Academy of Natural Sciences employed her as a primary illustrator of their landmark 17-volume work, The Birds of North America.

Julie Zickefoose's writing is a unique personal narrative that creates a mood, yet informs the reader. She accompanies her writing with paintings and drawings. "A South African Tapestry," Bird Watcher's Digest (March 1995) took an Apex Award for Feature Writing. Her illustrated book, The Bird-friendly Backyard: Natural Gardening for Birds (Rodale, 2001) has sold more than 40,000 copies, and Enjoying Bluebirds More, a bluebird landlord's handbook, has sold more than half a million copies.

With her husband, Bill Thompson, III, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest, Julie lives on an 80-acre nature sanctuary in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. A 42-foot-tall bird watching tower atop their home helps them enjoy and catalogue the wildlife they protect, including 181 bird species and 67 butterfly species to date.

Julie blogs about the natural world here.

In a hurry-up world, the garden keeps its own time. Old-fashioned plants like raspberries, asparagus and rhubarb ask us to slow down and wait for the sweet reward they offer. Commentator Julie Zickefoose revels in the waiting.

I have a friend who lives up in the mountains of North Carolina who loves to give me wonderful plants. Usually Connie gives me native prairie plants, and I plop them in the meadow, and it's no big deal. But this year she gave me raspberries. Not just any raspberries. Golden raspberries.

My Enormous Egg

Jul 31, 2011
Flickr Creative Commons user RachelSharon

There’s a bird that’s been trying to get in my house. He pecks at the window all day. What does he want? A bird flinging himself against a window ten hours a day does appear to to be trying to get inside. Go outside and look at the window from the bird’s perspective, and you’ll see your own reflection. The bird is met with a rival who answers his every parry with a thrust, who sings at the same time he does --the height of avian rudeness! Most importantly, it’s a rival who will not be vanquished, and will not go away. Nothing in his experience has prepared him for that.


Killing Telephones

Jun 26, 2011
Flickr Creative Commons user JDB Photos

One of the pleasures of turning 50 is being introduced to a hormonal regime that might have been designed by The Riddler, or the Marquis de Sade. I’m put on draconian sleep schedules that persist for a week at a time. One involves waking up at 2:57 AM, and falling back to sleep around five, for that refreshing extra half-hour before the alarm goes off. I’m a little bleary the next morning, not much good for anything.

Is My Car Gay?

May 1, 2011
Flickr Creative Commons user Marjorie Lipan

Across the US, gas and oil prices are going up, and people may paying a little more attention to their traveling habits.  And so commentator Julie Zickefoose is forced to ask a completely unrelated question: is my car gay?

Snow Day

Jan 31, 2011
Flickr Creative Commons user craig.daniels

I am a survivor. My two kids have been out of school for snow days almost as much as they've been in school this winter. One stretch was a week and a half, tacked onto a two week winter break. Twenty days of education-free togetherness. "What do you DO with them??" my friend Mary asked. I thought for a minute. "Well, they're building two snow forts. And they've figured out how to ride a small sled like a snowboard, and they go wobbling down the hill standing up and pitch forward on their faces. They call it snurfing. Then, they come inside and play with the Wii.

Julie Zickefoose

Ohio naturalist and wildlife artist, Julie Zickefoose has a story about a trip she took into the woods not far from here - with a group of schoolkids.