North Carolina Sea Grant
Coastwatch Currents

Coastwatch Currents

October 20, 2015 |


Posted Oct. 20, 2015

Ginger Deason is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on sustainable tourism and climate change. She also is a birder.

Birding is big business.

Wings Over Water, which takes place Oct. 20 to 25, 2015, draws hundreds of birders to the Outer Banks and points along North Carolina’s northern coast. These visitors bring in tourist dollars that boost the economy of these small, rural host communities during the off season.

Bird in tree

The Eastern population of the painted bunting only nests along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida. The bird flies back down to the Caribbean for the winter. Photo by Liani Yirka

People with binoculars looking up.

Birders can boost the economy of the towns they visit on their trips. Photo by Liani Yirka

Across the country and around the world, birders are willing to spend money to find their feathered friends. In 2011, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported that birders in the United States spent a record $41 billion on trip- and equipment-related expenditures.

In a Birder Travel Decisions Survey I conducted in 2014, respondents noted spending an average of $500 per person on their most recent birding trip in the U.S. The study was funded by North Carolina Sea Grant and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The questions focused on a variety of travel choices birders make. More than 600 avid birders — 92 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “birding is a part of me” — from North Carolina and surrounding states responded to the survey. For this research, I worked with Tourism Extension, which is part of N.C. Cooperative Extension at North Carolina State University.

Birders, I found, are willing to pay 6 to 10 percent more for environmentally or birder-friendly products and services. They are very concerned about the effects of climate change on birds and bird habitat, and they have clear opinions about the strategies businesses can implement to attract birders.

Spoiler alert: Putting up feeders is not a bad start!

The North Carolina Birding Trail developed the Birder Friendly Business and Birder Friendly Community Program to help businesses along the trail to better market to birders.

The Birding Trail was founded by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Audubon North Carolina, North Carolina Sea Grant, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, N.C. Cooperative Extension, and N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The trail was developed to help the state become a leading nature-based tourism destination.

Green Heron at Lake Mattamuskeet. Photo by Liani Yirka

Green heron at Lake Mattamuskeet. Photo by Liani Yirka

My survey will help the Birding Trail redesign its Birder Friendly Business online training program, adding helpful information that we gleaned from the responses. The goal is to launch the updated training in spring 2016. It will include tools and resources for businesses, as well as strategies to assist them with collaborative marketing — specifically targeted at birders.

If you are a business located along the N.C. Birding Trail and are interested in attracting some of those birders — and their spending — watch the website for the new Birder Friendly Business online training program!

For more information about the training program or to be notified when the new version is available, contact or call 919-515-4260.

Find my full report on the birder survey here, in the National Sea Grant Library.


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