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Americans Take Up Bird-Watching as the Lockdown Drags On

Two of the most popular bird identification apps have seen an upsurge in downloads in the past couple of weeks, the Associated Press reports.

Interest in birding has soared in recent weeks as more and more U.S. citizens are drawn to the noisy, fascinating animals just outside their homes.

Two of the most popular bird identification apps have seen an upsurge in downloads in the past couple of weeks, the Associated Press reports.

Initial numbers have also shown a jump in the sales of birding equipment such as binoculars, bird feeders, and birdseed – even as the sales of other non-essential consumer goods take a dip.

Bird Watching, A Healthy Hobby During COVID 19

With social distancing rules still in effect due to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been several suggested activities to engage in while indoors, to sharpen the mind and combat depression. These include gardening, exercising, and taking walks.

However, bird watching has become one of the most popular mind-boosting activities as well. This begs the question of what the activity offers. Getting a healthy dose of nature has several science-backed health benefits. Experts believe bird watching is more than an aesthetic treat, as it’s been found to have therapeutic benefits too.

In March and April, downloads of the National Audubon Society’s bird identification app doubled over that same period last year. The birder’s society also recorded up to half a million unique visits to its website in the same period.

The prestigious Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, has also reported a 102 percent increase in the downloads of its free bird identification app, Merlin ID, over the same time last year. On Easter weekend alone, the app had 8,500 downloads.

Uploads of bird photos and calls rose by 45% and 84%, respectively, and even retailers seem to be cashing in despite the crashing economy.

The trend coincides with the peak migratory season and nesting season, giving newfound birders a clear view of some of nature’s biggest shows. Birds are at their most active and noisiest now, and many Americans who currently aren’t at work or school are noticing.

Moments like these take you back to the magical times from six or eight weeks ago, when there was no pandemic. Bird watching helps you decompress and get away from everything that’s going on in the world, at least for a little while.

Amid the surging interest, nationwide spring bird counts are getting some adjustments for social distancing. The counts are critical for understanding how migratory birds are faring and are a high point for avid birders each year.

According to Sarah Swanson, coordinator of the fundraiser for the Audubon Society of Portland, participants of the Birdathon will go bird-watching individually over a period of weeks, instead of heading out in teams for a day or a weekend. After that, they will report individual sightings by virtual check-in and end with a Zoom celebration on May 9.

A Meditative Activity

Bird watching has also been described as a very meditative activity. Birders spend long bouts of time in the quiet of the great outdoors without any distractions. Now that we have ample time on our hands, bird watching will serve as an excellent opportunity to reflect or to zone out and think calming thoughts. Meditations that can slow the decay of the brain’s grey matter, which happens naturally as we age.

No doubt, bird watching inspires a harmonious union with nature. It requires watchers to spend time outdoors soaking up the sun’s vitamin D, breathing in the fresh air, and communing with animals.

Jimmy is an established journalist who contributes to a number of online publications. He is a survival expert and a daring explorer. He contributes his expert knowledge as a Survival Instructor to BeActiveOutdoors regularly. When he's not writing or editing, he's probably hunting or on the back of a fourteener or in a Nordic bar drinking ale from Thor's hammer. Contact Jimmy@beactiveoutdoors.com

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