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Boy Scout David Pruitt earns birding recognition

Boy Scout David Pruitt earns birding recognition
La Vernia Boy Scout David Pruitt (left) beams with pride as he displays the Hornaday Award, a distinction earned by only 1,100 others in the last 80 years.

He’s been recognized by Cornell University, but that hasn’t gone to 16-year-old David Pruitt’s head.

Three badges away from earning Eagle Scout distinction in the Boy Scouts of America, David ...a La Vernia High School junior an ornithology enthusiast and a recent recipient of the Scouts’ William T. Hornaday award. His interests led to him being named Blue Birder of the Year by the Texas Bluebird Society.

David’s dad, Paul, volunteers at Mitchell Lake Audubon Center in south Bexar County. In 2010, he went with his dad for a weekend.

David liked the bluebirds so much that he joined the Bluebird Society, which provided him with plans for a nesting box. He built it in January, put it up in February, and within two weeks, had a pair of nesting bluebirds! Most birding enthusiasts have to wait months before bluebirds inhabit their boxes. David got lucky, and from there he got hooked.

He built 22 nesting boxes for bluebirds out of cedar last year and put them up at Mitchell Lake. He has spent two hours every Saturday for the last year watching, waiting, monitoring, recording, and taking photos of all winged activity around his nesting boxes.

The bird boxes sit on a pole only six feet off the ground. Predators such as raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and cats will climb a pole to get the eggs and babies in the nest, so David has devised different deterrents, including baffles and nets.

While watching the bluebirds, he discovered that they have spiders living in their boxes. The birds bring in the spiders to eat the bugs and parasites that might inhabit the boxes. It’s a unique partnership found in nature.

Although the boxes are specifically made for bluebirds with an entry hole of a certain size other native and invasive bird species occasionally take over the boxes. One such native bird, a brown-crested flycatcher, caused such a stir that Cornell University got involved. David documented the birds, eggs, and nest through the university’s “Nest Watch” program. Some birders argued that his species was not the brown-crested flycatcher, but an expert ornithologist at Cornell confirmed that it was.

David’s nesting box, No. 19, is the first-ever documented sighting and recording of the brown crested flycatcher in a nesting box in the United States. A new data entry was created for David’s flycatcher family. This young man made “Nest Watch” history at Cornell University.

The Mighty Bear Band saxophone player has been working since 2011 on the birding project that earned him the Hornaday Award. He joins only 1,100 recipients in the last 80 years to receive this recognition.

He has worked diligently on his bluebird boxes, documenting mating pairs, taking pictures of eggs in the nest, recording bird songs, and photographing individual birds.

David has completed the requirements for the last three badges for his Eagle Scout award: cooking, personal management, and personal fitness. All he needs to do is the paperwork.

He has learned to cook in the field and on the trail through camping with the Scouts. On his latest campout, 11 days in New Mexico, the troop hiked 20 miles a day and had to outrun a thunderstorm in the mountains.

This birding enthusiast has enjoyed scouting with his father and his grandfather, Clay Bordner, both adult scout leaders. David would like to complete the youth leadership training after his Eagle Scout badge; he wants to be an adult scout leader after he turns 18.

His future plans include attending college to become an ornithologist. He’d like to specialize in raptor rehabilitation. He’s also considering joining the U.S. Air Force.

Hornaday Award

This award recognizes those who “é have made significant contributions to conservation. It was begun in 1914 by Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and founder of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.”

An active and outspoken champion of natural resource conservation and a leader in saving the American bison from extinction, Hornaday named the award the Wildlife Protection Medal. “Its purpose was to challenge Americans to work constructively for wildlife conservation and habitat protection. After his death in 1937, the award was renamed in his honor and became a Boy Scouts of America award.”


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