As a recreational sport, birdwatching is far and away the most popular in the United States. According to the latest census figures, 60 million Americans are birdwatchers. This is a staggering number when compared to other popular sports. For example, in the U.S., 24 million Americans play basketball, 23 million play baseball, nine million play football, making birding America’s favorite sports activity.
Because of this growth, birdwatching has become a driving economic force and represents the largest single group of tourists in the rapidly expanding field of ecotourism. More than three million U.S. birders take overseas trips annually, seeking bird species in nearly every country of the world.
This rapidly growing market segment is reflected in the number of ecotourism providers participating at this year’s American Birding Expo, taking place Friday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks.
“What makes birding so popular is that it’s so easy to get started,” said Bill Thompson III, the editor and co-publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, organizer of the event. “It’s also a great way to make new friends, and best of all, it gets you outside, which makes you healthier and happier!”
“Ecotourism exhibitors have always been a popular element at the American Birding Expo,” said Thompson. “Never more so than this year. If you are looking for an exciting ecotourism experience, you will find plenty of opportunities from the more than 65 ecotour providers, destinations, ecolodges, and private birding guides from all over the world who will be on hand to answer questions and give advice.”
In addition to the expanded presence of ecotourism providers, the number of exhibitors in all areas has grown substantially. Everything a nature enthusiast needs and wants will be on hand, from the latest in optics, outdoor apparel, and gear to accessories of all descriptions, bird feeders, seed, decorative items, books, and art. There will also be an automotive area that will feature vehicles that are top choices among birders and outdoor enthusiasts.
A new feature not to be overlooked is an indoor Optics Range that realistically simulates outdoor birding conditions, allowing consumers to field-test and compare various optical equipment side-by-side to determine which models offer the best visual acuity, image brightness, and ergonomic comfort.
Each day features free morning bird walks, educational seminars, demonstrations, and special presentations. Over a dozen presentations are scheduled, from such renowned experts as Noah Strycker, author of Birding Without Borders; WHYY’s Mike McGrath, host of “You Bet Your Garden”; and Carrie Barron, Assistant Director of John James Audubon Center in Mill Grove, Pa. There will also be a special presentation by actress and birding enthusiast Lili Taylor. She will discuss how the tools she uses as an actor are great assets when birding. She sits on the Board of Directors of both the American Birding Association and the National Audubon Society.
Advance tickets are a wise choice to simplify one’s visit and are available through the Expo website. Weekend passes are $10 (plus a small credit card fee) with those 17 or younger free when accompanied by an adult. Complete information can be found by clicking here.