I do not happen to be a “birder,” at least by the definition used by most United States birder organizations and followers. My guess however, many of us consider ourselves birders to some degree. Most of us have an interest in birds, some feed and water our winged neighbors, especially during inclement weather, some of us may provide bird houses in the spring. If we get uniquely close, we stop to observe size, color, we probably wonder if we have seen this species before.
The big difference may simply be how faithfully do we go outdoors on specific bird watching tours? do we read about local bird populations? Are we a member of a birding group? do we study bird routines? migration habits? It comes down to generally how much time and interest do we commit to watching, feeding, studying, or traveling some distances to watch or photograph birds with other birders?
According to the American Birding Association (ABA) the latest numbers are much higher than one might guess. ABA will tell us about a 18% of our country’s population or 45M people are active birders. They will also suggest to us the interest in birding is growing. I sense that is realistic. That growing interest most likely is due to the significant interest in the environmental and nature-related issues generally. It is estimated $96B is generated by the overall birding interest. More specifically $17B is in the form of income and taxes generated from birding related activities. Moreover 782,000 jobs are associated with the birding industry.
ABA has about 12,000 members, most of which are active and faithful birders. Birders have valuable support from other active organizations both public and private. Some of those include Cornell (College) Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, the National Wildlife Refuge System. Add to this number are groups who have more specific bird focus, but who’s objectives support broader groups of birds, groups like Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants and Quail Forever, plus the supportive work of various state government wildlife and outdoors agencies.
Large numbers of books and publications have been written about birding from both a professional/scientific and personal interest level with knowledgeable writers, David Sibley and Jason Crotty, being two of the many popular birder writers. The birder organization, “Birdwatching”, produces a free weekly newsletter for interested birders simply by subscribing online with “Birdwatching.” Bookstores and libraries are good sources as well for birder literature.
A great start for emerging birders is to take an active role in the popular “Great Backyard Bird Count” held nationally primarily to involve new, interested birders and give longer term birders an opportunity to search new bird species and to track changes in migration routes and timing. Mark your calendar for February 18-21, 2022 and make online contact via goggle with staff at “Great Backyard Bird Count” for details in preparing for next February event. There are opportunities to interact with skilled resources available to respond to questions.
Outdoorsman and Westminster resident Ron Hellbusch can be reached at Ron-Hellbusch Comcast.net