Central Park birder Christian Cooper is turning his viral video fame into a memoir and TV show

by Chloe Baker

Christian Cooper, the birder from Central Park whose viral video brought him fame, is now utilizing his newfound recognition to create a memoir and a television show.

Despite his encounter with a woman walking her unleashed dog in the bird-friendly Ramble of Central Park, Cooper continues to enjoy his beloved “happy place.” The incident, captured on video, involved Amy Cooper, a white woman who falsely accused Cooper, an African American man, of threatening her life. The video amassed over 45 million views on social media.

Since then, both individuals have experienced significant events. Amy Cooper was fired from her job and lost a lawsuit challenging her dismissal. Although she faced a misdemeanor charge, it was dropped after completing a program on racial bias. On the other hand, Christian Cooper’s memoir was released recently, and he now stars in his own series on Nat Geo Wild called “Extraordinary Birder with Christian Cooper,” which airs on Saturdays.

Coincidentally, the clash between the Coopers occurred just hours before the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Christian Cooper mentioned that he had Philando Castile, another African American man killed in a police shooting, on his mind when he decided to record the incident. Castile’s girlfriend had live-streamed his fatal encounter with the police, sparking nationwide protests.

For birders like Christian Cooper, recording such encounters is a routine part of their efforts to persuade park authorities to address the issue of unleashed dogs, which is prohibited to protect the park’s plant life and undisturbed birds. While Amy Cooper expressed her anger on camera, Christian Cooper remained polite and resolute, speaking off-camera.

Reflecting on the incident, Christian Cooper expressed his thoughts on the potential danger faced by Black men when falsely accused by white individuals. Despite momentarily considering stopping the recording to avoid trouble, he chose not to be complicit in his own dehumanization.

Amy Cooper never directly apologized to Christian Cooper, though she issued a statement expressing regret. Subsequently, Christian Cooper engaged in introspection and acknowledged the unease women may feel in public outdoor spaces.

During the encounter, Amy Cooper demanded that Christian Cooper stop recording and became upset when he offered her dog a treat. This tactic, employed by frustrated birders to confront owners of unleashed dogs, is controversial. Christian Cooper admitted that he has not used this approach since.

Christian Cooper decided against cooperating with prosecutors in Amy Cooper’s criminal case, considering it performative due to the ongoing election cycle. He also believed that she had already suffered enough through public disgrace. He acknowledged that his perspective might have been different if he had experienced physical harm or an encounter with the police.

Now, Christian Cooper is focused on sharing his love for birding with others. His book, titled “Better Living through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World,” begins with the Central Park incident and delves into his life story. He highlights how birding helped him connect with the world as a closeted gay child in a predominantly white community on Long Island. Additionally, he discusses his lifelong passion for Star Trek, science fiction, and Marvel Comics.

As a board member of the New York City Audubon Society, Christian Cooper has witnessed an increase in the number of Black birders. He has also participated in a movement within National Audubon Society chapters to disassociate from John James Audubon, an artist and naturalist known for his paintings of North American bird species. Audubon was an anti-abolitionist who owned and traded enslaved people. Christian Cooper’s local chapter is currently working on selecting a new name, while the parent organization has declined to do the same.

Through his book, Christian Cooper aims to engage a wide audience, including those who may not have previously considered birds or connected with nature on that level. He hopes to convey his passion for birding and encourage readers to open their awareness to the remarkable creatures around them.

On Nat Geo, Christian Cooper hosts his own show, which will also be available on Disney+ starting June 21. As the host and a consulting producer, he embarks on various birding adventures, such as scaling a Manhattan bridge to tag peregrine falcon chicks, exploring volcanic terrain in Hawaii in search of elusive honeycreepers, and venturing into rainforests in Puerto Rico to study parrot fertility. The show also features locations such as Palm Springs, California, Washington, D.C., and Selma, Alabama, where his paternal family has roots.

Christian Cooper has dedicated time to educating children about birding in public schools, and he hopes to reach an even broader audience through the recognition he has gained.

With his show being one of the first major birding programs on television hosted by a Black individual, Christian Cooper aspires to inspire young Black children to pursue birding and feel empowered to explore this passion themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about birder

What is the memoir by Christian Cooper about?

Christian Cooper’s memoir, titled “Better Living through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World,” explores his experiences as a birder and how birding helped him connect with the world, including his journey as a closeted gay child in a predominantly white community.

What is Christian Cooper’s TV show about?

Christian Cooper’s TV show, “Extraordinary Birder with Christian Cooper,” showcases his birding adventures across the United States. The series highlights various locations and explores diverse bird species, promoting a deeper appreciation for birds and nature.

What was the viral video incident involving Christian Cooper?

Christian Cooper’s viral video captured an encounter in Central Park where a woman, Amy Cooper, falsely accused him, an African American man, of threatening her life. The incident shed light on issues of racism and raised awareness about the experiences of Black individuals in public spaces.

How has Christian Cooper contributed to the birding community?

Christian Cooper is actively involved in the birding community and serves as a board member of the New York City Audubon Society. He has witnessed an increase in the number of Black birders and has been part of efforts to address the legacy of John James Audubon, advocating for inclusivity and diversity in the field of birding.

What is the goal of Christian Cooper’s book and TV show?

Christian Cooper aims to inspire others, especially young Black individuals, to explore the world of birding and develop a deeper connection with nature. His book and TV show seek to promote awareness, appreciation, and conservation of birds while also highlighting the importance of diversity and representation in outdoor activities.

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outdooradventurer June 16, 2023 - 11:47 pm

christian coopar’s tv show is going to be lit! i love watching birding shows, and having a black host is so important for representation. gonna set a reminder for the premiere!

birdlover123 June 17, 2023 - 2:39 am

thanks for sharing the reference links! gonna check them out and learn more about christian coopar’s story and his amazing contributions to the birding community. #Inspired

birdnerd42 June 17, 2023 - 4:43 am

can’t wait to read christian coopur’s memoir! being a birder myself, it’s amazing to see someone like him making a difference and encouraging more people, especially black kids, to get into birding.

naturelover27 June 17, 2023 - 9:58 am

christain coopar’s viral video was craaazy. it’s sad how racism still exists in public spaces. but it’s cool he’s using his fame to spread awareness about birds and nature.

BirdWatcher93 June 17, 2023 - 1:42 pm

wow, Christian cooper memoir and tv show sounds awesome. he is such an inspiration to all birders and i love how he is promoting birding and diversity in nature.


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