Bird watching is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in the United States. Based on a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 51.3 million Americans reports that they watch birds. More and more people are taking up this hobby as a regular activity.
Bird watchers observe wild birds in their natural habitat and learn to identify them and understand what they are doing. There are over 800 species of birds in North America and it is very easy to find at least 100 species in any part of the country. Bird watching is not only limited to a certain environment such as on a native prairie in North Dakota but is something that can be done anywhere, the closest of which is ones own backyard.
People of all ages watch birds. In fact, it can be a lifetime activity that can be done in any part of the world. Birds have always been a source of delight to people because of their beauty and power of flight. They were historically considered to be omens where their flights and calls were believed to foretell the future. Modern science uses birds as a kind of oracle when its behavior is used as an indicator of environmental conditions.
Bird watching is a very worthwhile activity and is definitely good for the environment. The Birdhouse Network was established as a citizen-science project by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where people place birdhouses or nest boxes in their yard or neighborhood and then monitor the birds that nest inside. Participants gather information and submit their data over the Internet to scientists at the Laboratory of Ornithology. The data becomes part of a national database which will help answer large scale ecological questions about bird populations. Members also receive feedback about their data and view results over the Internet. It is an opportunity to participate in “hands-on” scientific research and in efforts to provide nesting sites to cavity-nesting birds that are experiencing shortage of natural habitat.
The biological effects of birdhouses on bird population have not yet been clearly determined. There are hundreds of thousands of nest boxes that have been put up but most are infrequently monitored and the data collected have not been analyzed. Assessment of the real effect of nest boxes on the birds that use them can seriously be started with gathering the basic information about nest box inhabitants. This information should then be subjected to scientific scrutiny.
There have always been misgivings about human intervention with nature. In the case of providing birdhouses to cavity-nesting birds, it is believed that humans, at least for this case are doing a good deed. It may be able to prevent further decline of population numbers of several bird species.
Long time bird enthusiasts would swear to the contagious effect of the nest box fever. This “fever” infects many people across the country to graduate from having one or two boxes to dozen boxes covering square miles. This is usually felt after the first successful nesting of a bird specie in the house provided.
Bird watching is not an expensive hobby compared to some sports activities. It tends to draw a distinct kind of crowd where the level of knowledge is not necessarily an issue. Life can become a lot more interesting when there is awareness of the varied bird life existing all around.