Why Birds Matter?

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Strength in numbers:

  • 66 million Americans actively participate in wildlife watching (USFWS 2001)
  • 46 million Americans are birders (conservatively defined as having taken a trip a mile or more from home for the primary purpose of observing and identifying birds or tried to identify birds around the home—USFWS, 2001 survey)
  • 22% of all Americans consider themselves birders. (USFWS 2001)
  • Nearly 6 million Californians consider themselves birders (Audubon California 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 on the planet, only surpassed by gardening

Money Talks:

  • US Wildlife watchers spent $38.4 billion in 2001-- resulting in a $95.8 billion contribution to the nation’s economy and producing more than one million jobs. Birdwatchers spent $32 billion in 2001 that in turn generated $85 billion in economic benefits, produced $13 billion in tax revenues and 863,406 jobs (USFWS 2001).
  • US Birders spend $3.1 billion on food for birds and other wildlife; $733 million on bird houses and feeders; $2.6 billion on cameras and associated photographic equipment; $507 million on binoculars and spotting scopes. (USFWS 2001).
  • The net economic value (willingness to pay above what is actually spent) for the chance to see wildlife is $134 a person per day within the US (National Survey on Recreation and the Environment 2000-01)
  • An estimated 75% of households in Britain provide food for birds at some point during the winter making bird feeding in Britain a multi-million dollar business.
  • 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, which is around twice the entire world's Gross National Product. These services are not traded in markets and carry no price tags to alert society to changes in their supply or to deterioration of the ecosystems which generate them.
  • Want more facts? Here's the 2001 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 damage economies...
    • At Quivara National Wildlife Refuge, located at a rural location in central Kansas, a total of 17,400 birders were the primary user group of the 27,855 annual visitors to this refuge. Birders sampled tended to be upper middle-aged (40 to 69), well-educated (92% attended some college), earned incomes well above the national family average (43% earned greater than $50,000), while men and women were almost equally represented. Visitors came from 19 states and 1 foreign country; 50% of the birders were from out of state, and 66% stayed in the area more than 1 day, averaging 2 days in the area. The average visitors spent almost $400 on their trips to and from this refuge, which totaled about $6,840,000. The economic impact on local communities was estimated to be $636,000, including $265,500 for lodging, $177,000 for meals, $70,000 for gas, and $124,000 for other purchases (equipment, groceries, souvenirs, etc.). (1990 Economic benefits associated with birding study, Dr. Paul Kerlinger)
    • At Magee Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Area in rural Ohio, about 193,500 birders were the primary user group among the total of 432,722 refuge visitors. They tended to be middle-aged (average age = mid 40s), well-educated (72% attended some college), earned incomes well above the national family average (41% earned greater than $50,000), and women and men were equally represented. Visitors came from 18 states and 2 foreign countries; 26% of the birders were from out of state, and 78% stayed in the area more than 1 day, averaging 2½ days in the area. The average visitors spent $166 during their trips from start to finish, totaling about $32 million dollars. The economic impact on local communities was estimated to be $5,610,000, including $2,550,000 for lodging, $1,100,000 for meals, $470,000 for gas and $1,520,000 for other purchases. (1990 Economic benefits associated with birding study, Dr. Paul Kerlinger)
    • At a more remote birding hotspot – Whitefish Point, Michigan – about 4,000 birders visited annually, who were primarily middle-aged and upper middle-aged (75% were 30 to 69 years old), well-educated (87% attended some college), earned incomes of more than $50,000 annually (42%) although 26% were retired, and women outnumbered men (57% women). Birders came from 21 states and 2 foreign countries; 42% were from out of state and 90% spent more than 1 day in the area, averaging 3½ days. The average sum spent by each birder on their trip to and from Whitefish Point was about $366, totaling more than $1,500,000 with the benefit to the local economy measured at $381,449 including $170,672 spent on lodging, $38,928 on meals, $13,620 on gas and $158,224 for other purchases (equipment, groceries, souvenirs, etc.). (1990 Economic benefits associated with birding study, Dr. Paul Kerlinger)
    • The greatest potential impact of birders to a local economy may be appreciated when considering the grand successes at Corkscrew Swamp Audubon Sanctuary in rural Florida. This site is located in a warm-weather location that is frequented by wintering “snowbirds” along with throngs of tourists attracted to southern Florida and its Gulf and Atlantic Coast attractions. At Corkscrew Swamp, birders were the primary user group among the 80,281 annual visitors. Corkscrew birders tended to be middle-aged (30 to 49; average 45 years old) and well-educated (87% attended some college); their incomes were well above the national family average (57% earned more than $50,000), and men out-numbered women (58% men). Respondents came from 41 states and 7 foreign countries; 83% were from out of state and 83% stayed more than 1 day in the area, averaging more than 5 days. Visitors spent an average of $1,300 per person on their trips to and from the sanctuary, which totaled from $60 million to $90 million overall. The local economic impact was estimated to be about $12 million, including $5,000,000 for lodging, $1,600,000 for meals, $300,000 for gas, and $4,800,000 on other purchases. (1990 Economic benefits associated with birding study, Dr. Paul Kerlinger)
    • To put birding impacts statewide in Colorado into perspective, the total sales tax revenues generated by birders and other wildlife enthusiasts could purchase more than 29,000 computers for local schools. Annual retail sales in Colorado for birding and other wildlife-related recreation is 70% more than the total box office earnings of Star Wars, one of the highest-grossing films in U.S. history. The total funds spent for birding and other wildlife-related recreation in Colorado could purchase more than 54 million tickets to Colorado Rockies baseball games or 20 million tickets to Denver Broncos football games. Birding is big business in Colorado – every year!

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 decline of birds such as the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet led the United States to create its' first environmental law
  • In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh felt the Egyptian Vulture was so important that it led him to create the first-ever recorded environmental protection law to protect it.

Scary Facts:

  • The Passenger Pigeon was the most populous bird (estimated 5 billion) on the planet in 1850. A little over 50 years later it would be extinct thanks entirely to humans.
  • 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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