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Birds Put Billions into U.S. Economy: Latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Report

By Gustave Axelson
Illustration by Bartels Science Illustrator Megan Bishop.
Illustration by Bartels Science Illustrator Megan Bishop.

From the Autumn 2018 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

This year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the latest edition of its national survey of outdoor recreation: how many people participate and what sorts of associated purchases they make in pursuit of their hobbies. The report’s official title is the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (download the PDF). (It takes a couple of years for economists to crunch the numbers, that’s why it’s the 2016 report, not the 2018 report). Any way you look at it, though, birding stands out as a powerhouse in the outdoors economy. Here are the big numbers:

45 Million Bird Watchers:

The number of Americans 16 years and older who are bird watchers, including more than 16 million who travel beyond their home to watch birds and 10 million who specifically travel to seek out songbirds.

$1.8 Billion Spent on Equipment:

Dollars spent annually on binoculars and spotting scopes for wildlife watching, more than the amount spent by hunters purchasing rifles and shotguns.

$4 Billion Spent on Bird Food:

Dollars spent annually on bird food, more than the amount spent on rods and reels by anglers.

Note: We present comparisons with the hunting and fishing industries out of a sense of friendly competition, acknowledging that hunters and anglers have been and continue to be strong partners in conservation of our shared outdoors.

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