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Watch birds? You are among 55 million Americans who do.

Participation in wildlife-watching (think birds) has increased in the past five years. So say preliminary numbers from the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

Backyard bird observers totaled 38.7 million, according to the survey. Birders who travel a mile or more away from home to watch birds numbered 16.3 million. That means there are a reported 55 million of us with defined interest in birds.

Wildlife-watching, feeding, and photographing wildlife saw the most significant participation increases.
Expenditures by wildlife watchers went from $59.1 billion to $75.9 billion between 2011 and 2016. That's a sharp increase of 28 percent.

Purchase of optics (binoculars and scopes) doubled, going from $919 million to $1.8 billion. Cameras and photo equipment climbed by a similar amount, almost $1 billion, from $2.8 billion to $3.6 billion. Bird food purchases remained steady at around $4 billion.

More birders, more optics, no surprise here. The increase in money spent on photography is also not a surprise. Cameras are ubiquitous wherever birders go.

The number of hunters dropped by about 2 million in the last five years. The number of fishermen increased.

The survey collects information on the number of people who engaged in outdoor-associated wildlife activity, which activities, and money participants spent.

This is the 13th in a series of surveys conducted every five years since 1955. Data collected in the most recent report was released in September.

You can access the recent preliminary National Survey here:
https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/NationalSurvey/nat_survey2016.pdf