America’s #1 Spectator Sport – Bird Watching

What is the fastest growing outdoor family activity in the U.S.? It might just surprise you. Then again, maybe not. Not if your one of the more than 75 million Americans who already enjoys feeding and watching birds. CBS News recently dubbed bird watching as #1 spectator sport in America, attracting more people than NASCAR and all professional sports combined. Backyard bird feeding has always run a close race with gardening for the number one spot for family enjoyment, but both are at the top of the list. Birding in the 1990s experienced a growth rate of 150% followed by hiking at 84%. Other popular activities, such as golfing, grew by just 29%, where as fishing and hunting grew at a rate of less than 10%. And the interest in bird watching continues to grow. A 1997 article in Newsweek Magazine reported that bird watching would grow faster than the national population over the next 50 years.

But what is it that makes feeding birds and watching birds so popular? For one, they are the most visible of all our wildlife. Birds live among humans comfortably, singing, nesting, and fluttering past our windows and through our backyards. They provide a great natural insect control for our gardens. There is a huge diversity in the number of species and it changes with the seasons. In Nebraska alone roughly 450 species of birds have been identified. And birds are a source of great wonderment. From the intricacies of weaving a nest with only a beak as a tool, to locating enough food to feed a half dozen hungry mouths, birds are extremely resourceful. And as seasons change, their ability to migrate from less than a few hundred miles to thousands of miles and return to the same proximity boggles the mind. Biologists believe that birds use a variety of senses when migrating from their ability to detect magnetic fields, to using stars and terrestrial land marks to find their way. Consider the Arctic Tern whose annual migration covers roughly 25,000 miles. Adult birds then pass this information on to their young and it becomes a learned process.

However, for many people it is not so much about contemplating the complexity of the lives of birds that intrigues them. It is more simply about the beauty of their colorful displays, the relaxation of their serenades, and watching them rearing families right outside our windows. They become our backyard friends as we supply supplemental foods, and fresh water for them to drink and bathe in. We create backyard habitats, offering birds a place to nest and provide them with cover from inclement weather and hungry predators. Feeding birds and watching birds helps to create more awareness of the environment around us, and, not only how we can make that environment more sustainable for birds, but for ourselves as well. For information on backyard bird feeding and where to go to watch birds in Nebraska contact the Wild Bird Habitat Store, backyard birding headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska since 1993. Supporting Healthy Families Play Outside and the conservation of the rich birding heritage in Nebraska, working with the Nebraska Partnership For ALL Bird Conservation So feed the birds! It makes a world of difference.