Watching birds is fun, good for your health - and Michigan's economy, too
Michigan Sea Grant's free online video series, Michigan Birding 101, helps beginners learn skills to get started in this fascinating hobby.
Birdwatching, also known as birding, is one of the fastest growing hobbies in North America. According to a US Fish and Wildlife Survey, the percentage of Americans who watch birds for fun has doubled, and now includes 20% of all U.S. residents. Michigan is one of the best Midwest states to begin birding and learn more about the role of birds in our world. Do you want to learn more about birding? Michigan Sea Grant offers a free online video series, Michigan Birding 101, to help you get started.
Economic and health benefits
It’s no surprise really but birders have a direct impact on the economy. It has been estimated that birders spend more than $40 billion a year on travel and equipment alone. The ripple effect can be felt across communities where birding is particularly popular or where large festivals take place. In a recent study of the Maumee Bay area in Ohio, it was estimated that their annual birding festival, the Biggest Week in American Birding, along with other birding activity generates more than $26.4 million in economic activity. Birding benefits go beyond economic impact though. The simple act of being outdoors and walking improves physical health as well as a growing body of evidence of mental health benefits. A recent study showed having more birds to hear and see helps lower rates of anxiety, depression and stress. Birding can be said to be good for the community and good for the individual.
Birds provide important ecosystem services. They act as pollinators, serve as pest control for nuisance species, and help spread seeds of important plants to new areas. It is estimated that of all the trees and shrubs in a particular forest, more than 70% started as seeds deposited by birds. Large flocks of birds have even been shown to help till rice fields by breaking up soil and plant matter, helping it to mix and become fertile for the next years’ crops.
Learn to bird
Beginning Birding – Learn all about how to use binoculars, how to choose a field guide, and what to look for when identifying a bird.
Backyard Birding – Learn what and how to feed the birds, as well as ways to keep your backyard bird friends safe. We also cover some of the more common Michigan backyard bird species.
Winter Birding – Many birds head south in the fall, but Michigan is lucky to be able to host unique northern species who winter in the “balmy” weather of Michigan. Learn what some of these species are, how they are adapted for cold climates, and where you can find them.
Spring Migration – Learn about the amazing phenomena of bird migration, along with an overview of what Michigan birders can expect in the spring. Bird researcher and tour guide Skye Hass also shares some of his incredible experiences as a bird counter during migration.
Join the world of birding and we think you’ll find it is like a treasure hunt every day as you identify and observe new species – all while enjoying the health benefits that birding can bring. Enjoy!
Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.
This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statement, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.