Why Birds Matter?

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Strength in numbers:

  • There are over 10,000 different bird species in the world
  • About 85 million Americans enjoy observing, photographing or feeding wild birds. That means about 1 in 4 Americans are birders. (National Survey on Recreation and the Environment by the USDA's Forest Service 2013).
  • In the United States, Vermont has the most enthusiastic birding population at 39%; Hawai'i is the lowest with 9%. The average is about 24%. (USFWS 2011)
  • Nearly 6 million Californians consider themselves "Birders" (Audubon California 2010)
  • 56% of US "Birders" are women (USFWS 2011).
  • 1 in 5 Canadians are "Birders", spending an average of 133 days in a year on the activity. That’s more time than is spent on any other nature activity — including gardening, which people dedicate more than 70 days a year to, on average. (Canadian Nature Survey 2010).
  • Birding is the fastest growing form of outdoor recreation-- a 236% increase in participation from 1982 to 2001, from 21 million to 71 million (National Survey on Recreation and the Environment 2000-01).
  • Birding is the second most popular hobby/pastime worldwide, only surpassed by gardening.

Money Talks:

  • 40.5 million people in the US buy wild bird seed and feed birds at some time during the year. $3.22 billion was spent on bird seed and $1.8 billion on bird feeders. (USA & Canada Wild Bird Feeding Industry Benchmark Research 2013)
  • 8.4 million people in Canada buy wild bird seed and feed birds at some time during the year. $790 million was spent on bird seed and $360 million on bird feeders. (USA & Canada Wild Bird Feeding Industry Benchmark Research 2013)
  • About 45 million people (75% of the population) in Britain provide food for birds at some point during the year.
  • US Birders spent an estimated $15 billion on the birding trips (food, lodging, transportation) and $26 billion on their birding equipment (cameras, binoculars, scopes). The trip and equipment expenditures of $41 billion in 2011 generated $107 billion in total industry output across the United States and created 666,000 jobs. Total industry output includes the direct, indirect, and induced effects of the expenditures associated with bird watching. It also created $13 billion dollars in federal and state tax revenues and $31.3 billion in income revenues (USFWS 2011)
  • The combined value of 17 different ecosystem services that birds provide (such as pollination and water catchment) is estimated between $16- 54 trillion per year worldwide. This is around double what all the worlds economies make together. Without birds, we'd have to pay for these "free" services ourselves... so protecting birds actually saves us all money.
  • Want more facts? Here's the 2011 USFWS report "Economic Analysis for Birding"
  • For many states within the US, and countries around the world, wildlife tourism is their top economic producer. Damaging environmental protections will end up damage economies... In the United States, 69% of Wyoming and Alaska's tourism comes from Birders. 73% of Hawaiian visits are birders in search of seeing Hawaii's rapidly declining endemic bird populations. Other states that count on birders include: Florida 25%, New Hampshire 45%, Vermont 31%, Utah 31%, Maine 63%, Montana 40% and New Hampshire 45%. Only 20% of the US State economies don't count on Birders. (USFWS 2011)

Fun Facts:

  • The most common symbol found on any form of currency is a type of bird
  • In the US, 3 Baseball teams, 5 NFL teams, 4 NHL teams and 1 NBA team are named after birds
  • The first United States law passed to protect birds was after the public outcry of the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet going extinct in 1914. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 still stands today despite numerous attempts by conservative fractions to abolish or defund it. The statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein ("migratory birds"). The statute does not discriminate between live or dead birds and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. Over 800 species are currently on the list.
  • The first recorded bird protection law was past in Ancient Egypt by Pharaoh Psammetich I. The Pharaoh protected the Egyptian Vulture (on pain of death) because he realized the importance of vultures cleaning up carrion that often caused disease outbreaks. The Egyptian populous referred to the vulture, after the law was passed, as "Pharaoh's Chicken."
  • Over half of the known endemic bird species on Hawai’i evolved from the house finch.

Scary Facts:

  • Of the 71 known species of endemic Hawaiian bird, one-third are extinct and two-thirds of the remaining living species are endangered or threatened.
  • The Passenger Pigeon was the most populous bird in the world (estimated 5 billion birds) in 1850. Within sixty years it when extinct, thanks to human activity (hunting and habitat destruction). In written accounts given by those who actually saw the Passenger Pigeon flocks, “Beech tree limbs sagged as the colony crowded on slender branches. The largest colony that nested in Wisconsin as said to have at least 135 million adults and covered over 850 square miles. When the flock took off, the day would turn to night with a black cloud of birds, two to three miles across and forty miles long flew to its next destination at up to 60 mph.
  • Currently, 1 out of 6 species on this planet is on the brink of extinction, thanks in a good part to humans. (UN Council on Bio-diversity, 2010)
  • Unless something changes, it is predicted we will cause 50% or more of the species on our planet to go extinct within the next 30-100 years, which in turn, will probably bring about our extinction
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