Look to your left. Look to your right. Now prepare yourself, because there's a solid chance that one of those people is—gasp—a birdwatcher! According to a study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1 in 5 Americans participates in birdwatching. That's 20 percent of the population, or about 48 million people.
Which is shocking, because I've never met even one birdwatcher in my life. By here they exist, a silent but powerful lobby with the cash to push their avian agenda into the mainstream: The USFWS reports that birdwatchers contribute over $36 billion (billion!) to the U.S. economy. They're not going anywhere, either—the birdwatching percentage of the population has remained steady over the last ten years, despite the introduction of multiple alternatives to birdwatching.
Most birdwatchers are concentrated in the northern half of the U.S., with the highest participation in Montana at 40 percent, Maine at 39 percent, Vermont with 38 percent, and Minnesota and Iowa at 33 percent.
Given the fact that prized and rare birds like the ivory-billed woodpecker and the silver crested lousehatcher* often frequent wilderness areas that require protection means that backpackers and birdwatchers are on the same side.
"This U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study further reinforces the importance of bird conservation," said Darin Schroeder, the American Bird Conservancy's vice president for conservation advocacy. He said researchers found one-third of all U.S. bird species are either declining in number or facing serious threats.
Are you an out-and-proud birdwatcher/backpacker? Let us know why you love it in the comments below.
*OK, I made this one up.
Image credit: joguldi