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Number of wildlife watchers increases 20 percent nationally

Published by Central Office November 27, 2018

Contact(s): Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation biologist, 715-685-2933 Ryan.Brady@wisconsin.gov

MADISON - The number of wildlife watchers increased 20 percent nationally from 2011 to 2016, with birds being their overwhelming favorite and most often observed at backyard feeders, according to a recently released federal outdoor recreation survey.

With winter weather setting in, now is the time for Wisconsin bird watchers to put out feeders and consider reporting the birds they observe, state bird experts say.

Evening grosbeaks are on the move this year. Attract them to your feeders with black oil sunflower seeds.  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Evening grosbeaks are on the move this year. Attract them to your feeders with black oil sunflower seeds. Photo credit: Ryan Brady

"Winter is a great time to watch birds and to contribute to bird science and management by reporting the birds you see at your feeder," says Ryan Brady, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and monitoring coordinator for the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.

Audubon's 119th Christmas Bird Count (exit DNR), conducted locally on one day between Dec. 14, 2018 through Saturday, January 5, 2019, is an easy and fun way to get started while Project Feederwatch (exit DNR) spans the entire winter.

Brady says that higher energy demands and fewer natural foods available to birds make winter feeding an opportunity to help birds and attract some species for closer viewing. He offers 10 top tips to help Wisconsin's fine- feathered friends this winter:

  1. The single best seed to provide is black oil sunflower, which has high fat content and attracts the most species.
  2. Also offer nyjer (thistle) for finches, white millet for sparrows, doves, and other ground-feeding species.
  3. Offer both suet and peanut chunks for woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches.
  4. Avoid generic seed mixes as these tend to have more waste and attract less desired bird and mammal species.
  5. Deter squirrels with cone- or dome-shaped baffles above hanging feeders or below pole-mounted feeders.
  6. Place feeders closer than 3 feet or farther than 30 feet from your home to avoid the deadliest window collision zone.
  7. Minimize disease by cleaning your feeders at least once every two weeks using soapy water and a 10% bleach solution.
  8. Provide cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs for roosting and escape from predators.
  9. Offer water to attract a wider variety of species, using a heating element when temperatures dip below freezing.
  10. "Birdscape" your property with native plants such as fruit-bearing shrubs and evergreen trees. Check out these birdscaping resources on the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative website [exit DNR].

Nationally, 86 million adults reported wildlife watching in 2016 and spent $75.9 billion doing so, a 29 percent increase since 2011. That compares to 35.8 million adults who reported fishing in 2016 and 11.5 million who reported hunting, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (exit DNR).

More than 80 percent of wildlife watchers said they watched wildlife around home while 24 percent watched away from home. Birds were by far the most commonly watched wildlife, whether around home or away. The 2016 survey doesn't provide state level results but Wisconsin ranked second in the 2011 survey with the highest proportion of residents reporting watching birds.

Last Revised: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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