Bird Watcher’s Digest closed its doors just before Christmas and it was not expected to see light again.

Julie Zickefoose, editor, said she received the first email from potential owners on January 28.

“It happened at lightning speed,” she says.

Tucson, Ariz., resident Rich Luhr is new to birding, but he’s been learning since taking the magazine with Terre Haute, Ind., attorney Mike Sacopulos.

“I got married six months ago” Luhr said. “She was friends with Mike and loved bird watching and hadn’t done that in years. She thought we could do it together.

He bought a pair of binoculars and hiked the wooded trails which he found to be great fun and “a good excuse for a nice walk.”

He heard about the Bird Watcher’s Digest closing and his wife said he should tell Sacopulos and would like the opportunity.

“It was an opportunity to save a highly respected magazine” Luhr said.

Sacopulos took over the editorship with his knowledge of birding, while Luhr knew the magazine side of things.

“I’m learning a lot. All the other staff have (birdwatching) for decades,” he said. “Listening to them talk, I learn so much.”

Zickefoose said most employees of the former Bird Watcher’s Digest will remain.

“It was a real concern when so many people were out of work just before Christmas,” she says.

This time, the owners are focusing solely on the magazine rather than the products and ancillary publications.

“We hosted trips for subscribers. There was so much going on.” she says. “We had a podcast and a blog. We are now reduced to one magazine and one e-newsletter.

From the feedback she’s received, people are really excited for BWD to start fresh.

Luhr said the old summary was “Close and never come back.”

“It will soon be completely dissolved”, he said.

This new entity will be virtual with no brick and mortar headquarters. Luhr said most employees are working from home and are scattered across the United States.

He said they are keeping the same publishing schedule as before, with six issues per year.

“We try to respect the long history of Bird Watcher’s Digest and the heritage and history there,” he said. “We keep the content essentially the same.”

He said they wanted to maintain a high level of intelligence with articles. There is deep and expert knowledge, but it is “just updating the magazine to the 21st century.”

Luhr said the small size of the abstract didn’t do the incredible bird photography justice.

The new magazine is full size and will have “full-page images with incredible detail,” he said.

“It will be more readable and more beautiful. It will be a more attractive thing to have on the coffee table. We are simply unlocking what has always been there.

As part of the agreement with the former owner, Luhr and Sacopulos will retain the subscriber database.

Those who were previously subscribers will receive a free equivalent subscription.

“If they have three numbers left, they will receive three free numbers”, Luhr said. “If they have two years left, they will be two years old.”

The price will rise from $19.99 per year to $26 per year, he said.

“We tried to keep the price very reasonable, but it hadn’t been adjusted for decades,” he said.

Zickefoose said she was painting the cover for the first new edition. There will be a new website and a rebuilt Facebook page at

“This is not a business takeover” she says. “It’s a small magazine publisher helping a small publication.”

Michele Newbanks can be contacted at [email protected]

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