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Birders Contribute $36 Billion to Economy, Report Says

Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 5:24 p.m., EDT

Common MerganserAmerica’s birdwatchers spent $36 billion on the hobby in 2006, according to a report released July 15 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The report, “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis,” presents information on the participation and expenditure patterns of the country’s birders in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available.

According to the report, which is an addendum to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, one in five Americans, or 48 million people, watches birds. Moreover, bird watching is going strong — total participation in the activity has remained at about 20 percent of the U.S. population since 1996, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The report indicates that the average birder is 50 years old and more than likely has a better than average income and education. The average birder is also  likely to be female and highly likely to be white, according to the report.

Backyard birding was found to be the most common form of bird-watching, with 88 percent of birders watching birds around the home. Birding participation rates vary, but are generally greater in the northern half of the country, the report shows. The top five states with the greatest birding participation rates include Montana (40 percent), Maine (39 percent), Vermont (38 percent), Minnesota (33 percent) and Iowa (33 percent).

When it comes to the type of birds being observed, waterfowl is the most watched bird, followed by birds of prey, songbirds and other water birds, such as herons and shorebirds.

In terms of spending, birders were shown to purchase a variety of goods and services related to bird watching. In 2006, birders spent an estimated $12 billion on trip-related items, such as food and lodging, and $24 billion on equipment, such as binoculars and camping equipment.

These direct expenditures represent only a part of how birding impacts the economy. Such expenditures affect a variety of businesses, according to the report. For example, when an individual purchases a bird house, part of the purchase price will stay with the retailer, who in turn pays a wholesaler, who in turn pays the manufacturer. As a result, the direct expenditures associated with birding can have a ripple effect throughout the economy.

Click here to view “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis” in its entirety. <HOME>

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