How one 19-year-old is helping save the birds

Whitehorse, Yukon // Age: 19

Bicycles, birds and big plans: that’s Malkolm Boothroyd. For many birdwatchers, a North American “Big Year”—12 months dedicated to tick-listing as many species as possible—is a lifetime goal. Boothroyd did one at age 15. Not only that, he did it by bike. With no previous long-distance cycling experience, he and his parents rode a tire-balding 21,000 kilometres between the Yukon and Florida, spotting 549 bird species along the way—a green birding record that still stands nearly five years later.

Boothroyd’s Big Year raised $25,000 for bird conservation, but his worry about the threat posed to birds by global warming soon led him to deeper involvement. At 17, he biked from Whitehorse to Ottawa to lobby federal politicians about climate change. Last year, he joined American activists for a 7,000-kilometre pedal from Alaska to Washington, D.C., then hopped a train toward Cancún, Mexico, for the failed UN climate talks there. Boothroyd is hoping for better at this November’s climate conference in Durban, South Africa, but he won’t be biking this time. Instead, he’ll take trains and a cargo ship to avoid the large carbon footprint of criss-crossing the planet by airplane.

nd might he do a little birdwatching in Africa? Naturally. “When I was a kid, I had no TV, but at a friend’s house we watched The Life of Birds series again and again. Lots of the filming was in Africa,” Boothroyd says. “This trip is fulfilling a childhood dream.”

This profile is part of our Top 30 under 30 feature.