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Wisconsin ranks second in U.S. in bird watching

The Baltimore Oriole is one of many species observed by bird watchers in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is for the birds, literally.

In a report released on Tuesday, Wisconsin ranks second nationally in the proportion of citizens who call themselves birders, or a person who regularly watches birds.

The report is an addendum to the 2011 national survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation, produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A third of Wisconsin's population are birders, tied with West Virginia as second highest percentage in the country. Vermont has 39 percent of its citizens considered birders.

In numbers, though, the Badger State is far ahead of Vermont and West Virginia, because of Wisconsin's bigger population.

About 1,678,000 birders live in Wisconsin, compared to 574,000 in West Virginia and 292,000 in Vermont.

"Wisconsin is well known for its rich tradition of birding and other forms of wildlife watching," said Ryan Brady, a research scientist at the Department of Natural Resources and monitoring coordinator for the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.

The DNR news release said more than 400 species of birds have been recorded in Wisconsin, most being migratory species, which is easy to explain since the state is on the path of major north-south bird  migrations.

Big birding events also draw birders by the thousands, including the bald eagles wintering along the Wisconsin River, staging sandhill cranes and the goose migration at Horicon Marsh.

The survey said there are 47 million birders nationwide, spending an estimated $41 billion on trip-related expenses and equipment.

The survey also showed:

  • 88 percent of birders are backyard watchers, while 38 percent go on trips besides sitting in the backyard.
  • The average age of a birder is 53.
  • More women than men are bird watchers.
  • A whopping 93 percent of birders are white.

Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.