Interview with Glenn Bartley

Marvelous Spatuletail

Glenn Bartley has designed a very inspiring life for himself. He is a world renowned nature photographer and travels the world photographing rare birds and other interesting creatures. Living in British Columbia provides him with endless birding opportunities and an understanding of Northern migrators and the coastal birds that inhabit the cold waters there. He has designed photography tours that are a dreamy way to see beautiful countries, such as Costa Rica, while tuning into the colorful birds that inhabit the tropical landscape. His recent blog posts about the little frogs that came out after a rain shower in Costa Rica is beautiful and inspiring. Glenn was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share some of his experiences with us.

Peregrine-Falcon---07Peregrine Falcon

Pacific-Loon---28Common Loon

Your ability to capture the essence of birds is remarkable. Are you tapping into the energy or spirit of the birds when you photograph them? Do you think that might allow them to trust you?

I’m not sure about the energy or spirit…but I sincerely have a great deal of respect for nature. Whether the birds can sense that and are more confiding I can’t say. But they always have my respect and appreciation.

Are there any particular type of birds that you connect with more than others? 

I have definitely fallen in love with the tropical birds. I think the hyper-evolution that you see in the tropics is really interesting to me and, of course, the unbelievable colours that they exhibit doesn’t hurt either!

vertical-1Red-tailed Comet, Resplendent Quetzal

I have always thought of seagulls, terns, loons and other colder-coastal birds as having a particular language and vibe. Salty, hardy, strong. Tropical birds are so very different…. Colorful, with crazy chirps, caws, and songs. They are so foreign to me. How would you describe the differences between coastal birds, like those you have in BC (and we have in Maine) and the tropical birds of a rainforest? 

The life of a migratory bird that lives in more Northern climates is certainly much different than their tropical cousins. I think that the journey is what makes them amazing and shows their strength. For once they are on their breeding grounds, life is actually much easier than it is for many of their tropical counterparts. The truth is that each place has its challenges and advantages. That birds have expanded their range to fill each niche is hardly surprising, and yet still incredible!

Buff-tailed-Coronet---07Buff-tailed Coronet

Hummingbirds seem to be from a completely different planet. They mesmerize most of us. How would you describe their personalities or spirit? Do you get the opportunity to interact with them? 

I have spent a lot of time with hummingbirds and they are indeed amazing little animals. From the way they fly to their phenomenal bills and plumage they are definitely my favorite family of birds. I have studied them from just a few inches away and even held them in my hands. They never cease to amaze me! Here are some of my favorite images.

Would you please recommend some ideal birding adventures? What would be best for a beginner birder? 

I think if you are just getting started then right around your own backyard or local parks is a great place to begin. There are so many hotspots in the USA and Canada that it is easy to always find a new destination to go bird watching. If tropical birds are interesting then I think Costa Rica and Ecuador are phenomenal locations. For anyone looking to explore these places with a camera, they might like to see the tours that I run each year.

Andean-Cock-of-the-Rock---01Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Hooded-Mountain-Tanager---01Hooded Mountain Tanager

If you were a bird, what kind would you be? 

As much as I love hummingbirds, I think it would be too stressful being one. I think I’d probably be an eagle or Peregrine Falcon.

Do you have bird feeders at your house? Year round?

I do not. But if I had a nice yard I certainly would.

Would you please share your favorite bird organizations for those of us that would like to learn more? 

For Canadians, Bird Studies Canada is great. Ebird is a fantastic resource. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also has a great site.Are there any particular bird organizations that you would encourage people to consider donating to? Probably your local Audubon or Natural History society. That way you can see the results close to home.


View more of Glenn’s work here. Like his Facebook page to be updated with his latest photographs.

Visit the Maine Audubon’s website here.


Black-throated Blue Warbler


American Golden Plover


Fasciated Tiger-Heron


Northern Saw-whet Owl