Birding – or birdwatching – is immensely popular in the United States. And the popularity of birding or interest in birds only increased during COVID as people were more confined to home and the local neighborhood. Watching birds is one of the few completely free and solitary activities people could do, and one that is continually variable and never boring. If there is any silver lining to the pandemic, perhaps it just could be that more people have developed a passion for birds in the US – leading to greater awareness of conservation and wildlife generally.
But let’s talk more generally about birding in the United States and just how popular it is today.
Membership in Audobon Society groups around the country can provide a good indicator of the level of interest in birds in any particular area or state. While not every single person who joins Audubon as a paid member is necessarily a bird watcher or into birding – they may simply want to support conservation or enjoy specific member benefits – we can still gauge the level of interest in birds as a whole by looking at Audubon membership. For example, Mass Audubon states a membership and supporter community of 130,000.
There are more than 450 local Audobon chapters throughout the United States, 23 state programs and 41 Audubon centers.
Not all people who feed birds consider themselves as bird watchers (although most are certainly at least watching the birds who come to the feeder!). Likewise, many birdwatchers are not necessarily interested in backyard bird feeding. These two interests certainly loosely tie in with each other, and it is well known that backyard bird feeding is a huge industry in the United States – so while this doesn’t translate to the same level of interest in regular birdwatching, it does tell us that millions of people in the United States have some level of interest in wild birds; even if it is only those who visit their yard or property.