Nature Conservation and Birdwatchers

The birdwatching community has the potential to become a powerful force for nature conservation. In the United States alone, there are 47 million birdwatchers. Of these, 41 million (88%) enjoy and identify birds at home and 18 million (38%) take trips for the purpose of observing birds (USFWS 2011). Imagine if every birdwatcher directed a portion of his or her love of birds into conservation action... the results would be heard in the springtime songs of millions of breeding birds.
The first step to helping birds is to understand the threats they face. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the primary driver of bird population declines has been habitat loss. The explosive growth of the human population has been fueled by the widespread conversion of wild habitats into agricultural land, cities, and suburbs. 
Therefore, protecting remaining habitats and restoring degraded habitats are two of the most effective ways in which birdwatchers can aid bird conservation.
Additionally, birders can support bird conservation organizations, work to minimize climate change, or address any of the human-related sources of bird mortality listed below. This table is adapted from a list compiled by American Bird Conservancy in 2013.
Causes of Bird Mortality
Best Current Annual Estimate
Outdoor cats
2,400,000,000
Collisions with buildings/glass
1,000,000,000
Collisions with automobiles
 75,000,000
Hunting / Lead poisoning
 70,000,000 / 21,000,000
Pesticides and toxics / oil and waste-water pits
 16,000,000 / 750,000
Collisions with communication towers
 6,500,000
Persecution, depredation control + research
4,000,000
Collisions with wind turbines
1,350,000
Mining claim markers
1,000,000
Gas platforms
200,000
Collisions with power lines
150,000
Aircraft
25,000
Oil spills
10,000
Electrocutions
10,000
Banding casualties
10,000
Fisheries bycatch
10,000
Finally, birders can help birds by minimizing the negative impacts from birdwatching activities. Compared to the list above, it's likely that birdwatching impacts are relatively minor. That said, overeager birders who venture too close can cause breeding birds to abandon nests, or long-distance migrants to burn through precious energy.
Birders who become aware of even the minor impacts from birdwatching activities are likely to show a heightened concern for birds that can lead to action to address habitat loss and other major sources of human-caused bird mortality. Learn how to lower your impact while birding by browsing our compilation of ethical birding guidelines.