Birdwatching, or birding, is a form of wildlife observation in which the observation of birds is a recreational activity or citizen science. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, by listening for bird sounds,or by watching public webcams.
Birdwatching often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are more easily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Most birdwatchers pursue this activity for recreational or social reasons, unlike ornithologists, who engage in the study of birds using formal scientific methods.
Economic and environmental impact
In the 20th century most of the birding activity in North America was done on the east coast. The publication of Roger Tory Peterson’s field guide in 1934 led to the initial increase in birding. Binoculars became more easily available after World War II, which made this easier. The practice of travelling long distances to see rare bird species was aided by the rising popularity of cars.
About 4% of North Americans were interested in birding in the 1970s and in the mid-1980s at least 11% were found to watch birds at least 20 days of the year. An estimate of 61 million birders was made in the late 1980s. The income level of birders has been found to be well above average.
The 2000 publication of “The Sibley Guide to Birds” sold 500,000 copies by 2002. but it was found that the number of birdwatchers rose but there appeared to be a drop in birdwatching in the backyard.
According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, birdwatchers contributed $36 billion to the US economy 2006, and one fifth (20%) of all Americans are identified as birdwatchers.
North American birders were estimated to have spent as much as US$32 billion in 2001. The spending is on the rise around the world. Kuşcenneti National Park (KNP) at Lake Manyas, a Ramsar site in Turkey was estimated to attract birders who spent as much as US$103,320,074 annually. Guided bird tours have become a major business with at least 127 companies offering tours worldwide. An average trip to a less-developed country costs $4000 per person and includes about 12 participants for each of 150 trips a year. It has been suggested that this economic potential needs to be tapped for conservation.
One of the expectations of ecotourism is that the travels of birdwatchers to a place will contribute to the improvement of the local economy which and in turn ensure that the environment is valued and protected. Numerous positive and negative impacts of birdwatching have been identified. Impacts include disturbance to birds, the environment, local cultures and the economy. Methods to reduce negative impact and improve the value to conservation are the subject of research.