A 2022 study by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) identified about 96 million people who observed, fed, or photographed birds; visited public parks to view birds, or maintained plantings and natural areas around their homes for the benefit of birds. These numbers are believed to reflect a Covid-inspired birding boom beginning in 2020. Cornell Lab of Ornithology participatory-science programs, like the Merlin Bird ID app and eBird, also reflect the heightened interest in avian affairs. For example, as of March 2023 there were more than 1.5 million active Merlin users in the US, a fivefold increase from the 300,000 Merlin users in March 2020. Likewise, eBird monthly checklist submissions have doubled, from 600,000 checklists in March 2020 to 1.3 million by May 2023.
Birding is big business! More than six out of every 10 dollars spent in 2022 on wildlife-related recreation (which also includes hunting and fishing) came from wildlife watching, with birds cited as the greatest focus for wildlife watchers. Altogether, wildlife watchers spent more than $250 billion last year to engage in their hobby—including more than $24 billion on equipment such as binoculars, cameras, and bird food—for an average of $2,188 per person.
Sometimes that spending can add up just by virtue of a single rare bird. A 2023 study published in the journal People and Nature documented that when a Steller’s Sea-Eagle showed up on the New England coast in the winter of 2021–22, eager birders pumped more than $750,000 into the economies of Maine and Massachusetts.
This report is an important source of information to share with elected officials and shows just how many of their constituents care about the environment and conservation. Read the full report
Sources: USFWS and Living Bird magazine