More than 46 million Americans count themselves as birdwatchers, according to preliminary findings from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe announced last week the results of this study, which has taken place every five years since 1955.
The number of Americans 16 and older who say they watch birds dropped by slightly less than a million from the 2006 survey, and the number of bird watching days decreased by significantly more. However, survey participants still spent more than $4 billion on bird food, just more than $900 million on binoculars and scopes, and around $970 million on nest boxes, birdhouses, feeders and baths.
Salazar and Ashe both tout the overall results as crucial progress in the campaign to get people outside.
The number of hunters and anglers increased by 9% and 11% respectively, to 13.7 million and 33.1 million. “This is great news,” Salazar said during the survey press conference. “Hunters and anglers have long been the driving force behind conservation efforts in America, contributing their time and labor as volunteers, and at the end of the day, providing most of the funding for state wildlife agencies.”
Also, the preliminary results showed an uptick in the number of young Americans participating in outdoor activities, Ashe added. “That’s incredibly important for those of us in the conservation business. We are seeing the younger generation of Americans getting into the outdoors.”
Between April 2011 and May 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau interviewed close to 50,000 households. A final report and one broken down by state—and which will include data relative to urban and rural settings, as well as more detailed demographic information—should be available by year’s end.