The fastest growing subsector of ecotourism is probably avitourism, or birdwatching.
Birdwatchers are generally well-educated, conservation-minded, and committed to their
hobby. Hence, birdwatchers provide an interesting case-study to fully understand how
biodiversity is valued by the public. Further, there is scope to understand the positives and
negatives birdwatchers may have in terms of conservation. We used a unique example of an
appearance of a Black-backed Oriole – a bird endemic to Mexico – at a backyard bird feeder
in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania, which was only the second time this species had been
recorded as visiting the US. The homeowners, where the bird was visiting, kept a log-book
which recorded where visitors travelled from, and this was the basis of our dataset. We
combined this dataset with surveys sent to birdwatchers through internet forums. The arrival
of this bird caused more than 1,800 birdwatchers to go view it, with about 57% of the visitors
traveling from within 100 km, and 3% traveling from > 1000 km. The bird stayed for 67
days, and we estimated this ecotourism event generated more than $3000 a day for the local
and extended economy as a result of the travel, food, and accommodation costs of the
avitourists. This amounts to an economic boost of an estimated $US 223,851. We showed
that birdwatchers can highly value an individual vagrant bird and that there are tangible
economic benefits from vagrant birdwatching events. Ultimately, all birds depend on their
habitats and so the benefits to the economy from birdwatching need to be balanced against
environmental threats that destroy their habitats, such as land clearing.

Corey T. Callaghan

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