What is the average age of birdwatchers?

Many people think that birdwatching is a hobby for the middle-aged or retirees. The 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, however, paints an entirely different picture. The survey shows that birdwatchers who go birding ‘Away-from-Home’ have an average age of 49 with 47% being under the age of 45. For ‘Around-the-Home’ birdwatchers, the average age is 54 with 33% being under the age of 45.
Wildlife Watchers by Age
Age Group Away-from-Home Around-the-Home
16 to 17 1.0m 1.5m
18 to 24 2.6m 4.4m
25 to 34 3.3m 10.3m
35 to 44 4.3m 10.6m
45 to 54 3.0m 16.2m
55 to 64 5.4m 20.1m
>= 65 4.0m 18.0m
Another way to look at age demographics is to look at the proportion of birders within each age group. This is known as the participation rate. The participation rate is calculated by dividing the estimated number of birdwatchers in an age group by the total number of people in that age group. The table below show the participation rate of ‘Away-From-Home’ and ‘Around-the-Home’ birdwatchers. According to the study, the differences in the participation rate of ‘Away-From-Home’ birdwatchers is not statistically significant for most age groups. This means that age does not have a clear impact on the likelihood of someone being an ‘Away-From-Home’ birder or not.
‘Around-the-Home’ on the other hand does show a statistical difference between most age groups. In this case, there are statistically more ‘Around-the-Home’ birdwatchers in the older age groups. E.g. 48% in the 55 to 64 category and 23% in the 24 to 35 category. Having said that, ‘Around the Home’ birdwatchers are by no means dominated by elderly people.
Wildlife Watchers: Proportion of U.S. Population
Age Group Away-from-Home Around-the-Home
16 to 17 11% 18%
18 to 24 9% 16%
25 to 34 8% 23%
35 to 44 11% 26%
45 to 54 7% 38%
55 to 64 13% 48%
>= 65 8% 37%

Recent articles published by the New York Times and on the National Audubon Society’s website state that the birding community is getting younger and becoming more diverse. Market research by The National Audubon Society has identified 9 million people between the ages of 18 and 35 “who share that blend of an interest in birds and environmental activism.” Source: Birdwatchingdaily

There are a great number of clubs, groups and events popping up that are specifically aimed at the younger generation, for example e-Bird’s For Young Birders event which aims to bring together teenagers with a passion for birds and interested in pursuing a career in the field. Also enticing the younger set is the rise of technology; apps that keep track of birders’ checklists and rank users against each other, as well as online communities such as Birda and BirdFellow.

Birdwatching age distribution according to the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey

The 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the latest survey available from the US. In the 2016 survey, birders fit into the ‘Wildlife Watchers’ category. There are two groups of ‘Wildlife Watchers’. The first is defined as ‘Around-The-Home Wildlife Watchers’ and the second as ‘Away-From-Home Wildlife Watchers’.

Around-The-Home Wildlife Watchers

In 2016, the US population of people 16 years or older was nearly 255 million and of those, 32 percent wildlife watched around their homes. Of these 43.8 million Around-the-Home wildlife watchers, 38.5 million or 88% of them watched birds (see chart below). Therefore, it is fair to say that Around-the-Home wildlife watchers are representative of the Around-the-Home birdwatching population.

Percent of type of wildlife observed by Around The Home wildlife watches
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pie chart of Around the Home Wildlife watchers - sorted by age
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Around the Home participants (of the US population) by age
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Away-From-Home Wildlife Watchers

In 2016, 23.7 million people 16 years and older took trips away from home to feed, observe, or photograph wildlife and they comprised 28 percent of all wildlife watchers. Of these 23.7 million Away-From-Home Wildlife Watchers, 17 million or 72% are categorised as birdwatchers. Therefore, it is also fair to say that away from home wildlife watchers are representative of the Away-From-Home birdwatching population.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Percent of away from home wildlife & bird watchers by age
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Away from home wildlife - percentage of US population who participated by age
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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