Three hundred million chickadees could live for one year on the amount of bird seed bought annually for bird feeders in the U.S.
That's more than a flock and a half.
Bird seed sales in the U.S. in 2016 (the most recent year available) amounted to more than $4 billion.
Purchases were made by the more than 57 million people who feed birds and other wildlife. The numbers come from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outdoor recreation survey reflecting 2016 purchases.
In our state, grouped with neighboring states to the west and south, 32% of households fed birds, according to the survey.
How does this compare with other countries?
Birds in northern Europe are well fed. There is a distinct northern European/cooler climate flavor when you consider food for wild birds. Purchases were mainly in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
The English have a slightly higher bird-feeding participation rate than we do. And, if you leave England to settle in another country, your affection for birds goes with you.
Seed sales are significant in Australia and New Zealand, plus southern European countries in areas to which people from northern Europe have moved.
The total market in northern Europe for bird seed in 2017 had an estimated value of more than $1 billion, a European sales report said.
Since 2000, bird-feeding participation has grown in Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico, according to various research papers.
The study I read said bird feeding is "apparently virtually unknown in most of Asia and most countries of the southeast." Inclusive data on a worldwide bases are elusive.
And who are we who feed birds? Basically, this is an activity of the Western world, our "humane response to the apparent suffering of birds being an obvious motivation," a research team wrote. Suffering was not defined.
Very generally speaking, summarizing several websites, feeding birds means you have the time and resources ($$) necessary. If your consuming interest is food on your own table, birds can take care of themselves.
I agree with a report that says we enjoy birds' company, like to watch them, love to photograph them, and find them to be a connection with nature.
There are "physical, psychological, educational and social benefits from interaction with nature," a study said. You might have read before that bird-watching can have a definite relaxing effect.
Two generations of us are most likely to enjoy those benefits: Gen X adults ages 40 to 55 and baby boomers, ages 55+ or ++.
You can watch birds almost anywhere with or without what amounts, for most of us, to a reasonable investment in equipment — binoculars, identification book, comfortable shoes.
It's recreation you even can do from indoors, in a chair with coffee at hand.
It's been something we've enjoyed for many, many generations. The oldest bird-feeding record dates from the sixth century, a Scotsman known as St. Serban, according to British naturalist James Fisher.
Read Jim Williams' birding blog at startribune.com/wingnut.