how many bird watchers in us

Over 45 million Americans engage in birdwatching annually, spending almost $41 billion on associated travel and gear. This activity has a substantial positive impact on both local economies and the US economy overall. Every year in January, National Bird Day is observed. This is a great opportunity to visit one of the nation’s National Estuarine Research Reserves, which are sanctuary areas for birds and their enthusiasts.

Take Mission-Aransas, Texas, for instance, where they rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured sea birds. The reserve also plays host every winter to the beloved and endangered whooping crane—which would likely be extinct if not for the refuge of this reserve. Farther north, bird watchers visiting the Chesapeake Bay research reserve in Maryland can discover why the National Audubon Society designated it an official “Important Bird Area.” Across the country, north of Seattle, Washington, nature lovers can marvel at the allure of Padilla Bay reserve’s 8,000 acres of eelgrass, and the determination of the Brant geese who, every October, migrate all the way from Izembek Lagoon in Alaska just to eat it. The journey takes 72 hours, and they don’t stop until they reach their destination.

Facebook: Looking at “likes” for organizations that promote birdwatching on Facebook is an additional option. Facebook “liking” a post is free of charge and indicates interest in the content that has been liked. Facebook is widely used, so even though the demographics of birdwatching tend to be older, this data should include a large number of birders. Once more, not all birdwatchers use Facebook, and not all Facebook users will “like” birding-related pages.

According to the data, there may be a million “birders”—people who would not be shocked to be called birders. This roughly translates to 40 times the number of Facebook “likes” for the ABA and double the total number of eBird users worldwide. However, that estimate is undoubtedly more art than science because it depends on one’s estimation of the proportion of birders who would participate in these countable activities and, more importantly, on one’s definition of what constitutes a birder.

But I believe that both of the FWS statistics—45 million birders and 16 million active birders—much overstate the actual number of “birders” as the birding community would understand the term. Stated differently, I think that the great majority of the 16 million “active birders” would be astonished and somewhat confused to discover that they fit into this category. The definition of “birder” is problematic, especially when the survey data that underlies it was produced for a different objective.

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The issue is not that birders are a small or irrelevant group; rather, it is that the FWS defines “birder” too broadly and/or that the survey questions lack sufficient nuance to discern between birders and non-birders. Because of their age, wealth, and education compared to the general population, as well as their widespread and fervent devotion, birders are likely to be highly sought-after customers (especially for manufacturers of optics and birding tour companies) and a potentially powerful political force.


How many people are bird watching?

In 2021, the number of people who participated in birdwatching in the United States amounted to approximately 14.82 million.

How big is the birding industry?

This evolving demographic has spurred a surge in bird-related ecotourism. According to the Outdoor Recreation Economy report from The Hill, the industry generates $887 billion annually. Of that, The National Audubon Society says that bird watching is a $41 billion contribution to local and national economies.

What is the average age of bird watchers?

The “average” bird watcher, if there is such a thing, is a 49 year old married female with a college education. These folks spend between $32-40 million a year on feed, binoculars, travel forays, and high-tech gadgets like winterized birdbaths and computer “nest cams” to view their feathered friends.

Is the popularity of birding still growing?

Birding, among the 51 activities that we track in the NSRE, sits now at number 15, attracting 33 percent of persons 16 or older. This amounts to an estimated 70.4 million people who now go out-of-doors to watch birds one or more times per year.