Greatly aided by the availability of pocket field guides and affordable optics, the non-consumptive enjoyment of birds has dramatically increased since the days of market hunting. Bird watching is currently one of the most popular outdoor recreation activities in the United States, with 46 million people spending $32 billion annually on bird related sales. This in turn has generated over 860,000 jobs nation-wide.
Analyses of data from several nation-wide bird surveys have recently confirmed anecdotal evidence of population declines for many bird species. The most important is the Breeding Bird Survey that has collected data on birds since 1966 at about 2,000 sites throughout the United States and Canada. Though it is impossible to generalize about all species and regions of the country, most biologists agree that many species, especially in the eastern United States seem to be facing significant population declines. has placed 100 bird species of conservation concern on a Watch List due to low or declining population trends. See Table 1 for these species that occur in Georgia.
Table 1. Partners in Flight Watch List Species that occur in Georgia.
Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed sparrow
Though market hunting is a thing of the past, birds still face a number of threats. The loss and of habitat associated with urban sprawl and development is probably the most serious threat to most bird species today. Fragmentation of habitat often allows predators and better access to nesting birds.