'Subirdia'

Most of us would probably guess that, given the choice, birds prefer natural, forested habitats over cities and suburbs. That’s what researchers hypothesized when they began studying bird density and diversity in the three types of areas. They figured that humans hindered avian activity.

According to an article about the research on NPR’s website, surveyors found exactly what they expected in the center of Seattle, where the investigation took place. Pigeons, sparrows, crows and other types of birds you’d expect to find in most cities took over. When they traveled out to the suburbs, they expected to find maybe a dozen different species.

When they arrived and started counting, their guess was proved wrong. They spotted twice as many — 30 in all — species enjoying the man-made but protective, rich habitats homeowners provided. Several types of seeds, plants with berries, small ponds, bird houses and more were plentiful, and more birds were found in the ‘burbs than in forested areas nearby. One of the researchers, who wrote about the findings, dubbed it “Subirdia.”

Perhaps that’s why many who define themselves as “birders” prefer to do their watching at home rather than travel. According to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Study, “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis,” 88 percent of the 47 million Americans aged 16 and older who actively engaged in birding activities did so at home, and apparently, since many of them likely live in suburbs, they are getting quite a show.

About 20 percent of the country’s population call themselves birders. If most of them are setting up ideal habitats, providing seed and watching where they live, that can translate into more sales for related products at independent garden centers. Our inaugural birding report examines the state of birding today and what retailers can do to encourage more customers to explore the hobby. Although the latest FWS birding report will likely not be released until 2018, you can read about what conservationists and researchers say about the popularity of bird watching and current trends. You’ll also find the amount that people spend on bird seed, bird feeders and more in the article, and it’s in the billions. There's also a list of 10 great plants you can offer customers to attract specific birds. Finally, we look at a different type of birding, backyard chicken keeping, and how retailers can decide if they should offer related products.