Are you the type of person who will take up a hobby (or dress funny or jump off a bridge) just because everyone else is doing it?  If so, have we got a proposition for you!  Did you know that birding is the fastest growing outdoor recreational activity in the United States?  It is absolutely mind boggling how many bird watchers are allegedly out there.  “Just how many?” you ask. According to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, there were 84 million U.S. birders in 2000, up from an equally astonishing 54 million in 1995.   This is out of the 207.3 million (non-institutionalized) people in the U. S. at that time aged 16 and over.  One suspects that the numbers would be even more impressive if they had polled the institutionalized folks as well.

The design of the research may be questionable, and I’ve seen the 2000 count widely quoted as 71 million, but that’s still a lot of field guides! This study doesn’t even take into account the many millions of birders in Canada, Europe, and beyond.  If the numbers are accurate, there are more people birding than there are people golfing, hunting, or fishing.  We all know the passions those activities can inspire.  Yet birding is more popular.

The birding community encompasses a broad spectrum of backyard birders, opportunist oglers, weekend watchers, and hardcore twitchers.  There’s room for everyone under this tent.  While levels of passion and activity may vary, every member of this friendly mob is interested in avians enough to call him- or herself a birder.   This is significant when you think about it.  There is a substantial difference between someone who looks at the woodpecker on the tree in back only to idly wonder what type of bird it is, and the neighbor who sees the same woodpecker and is intrigued enough to purchase a bird guide in order to make an identification.   Once curiosity takes hold and you make that positive step towards discovery, you join the rapidly swelling ranks of the birding community.

There is a flock of better reasons to become a birder, some of which we’ve already addressed and others we have yet to explore.  Most of these are personal, often intensely so.  But birding is not necessarily a solitary endeavor.  This thrilling activity comes with its own built-in community of ardent, knowledgeable, friendly, nature-loving types.   If that’s the sort of group you would like to associate, by all means, come for the camaraderie.  You’ll surely stay for the birds.

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.