Birds Mean Business
From the end of April to mid-May, more than 90,000 birders visit our area to take in this astounding migration spectacle.
Quality of Life
Birds are colorful and active, and many sing beautiful songs. Once you delve into the world of birds, you’ll also discover that their lifestyles are endlessly fascinating. Imagine a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (weighing just one-tenth of an ounce) crossing the Gulf of Mexico in fall migration, an 18 hour journey!
To date, we’ve had birders from every state and 32 countries here—just to enjoy “our” birds! While they’re here, they spend nearly 40 million dollars in local businesses. (Data based on BSBO’s post-Biggest Week economic impact study, 2013.)
And the best part? All this occurs during what had been considered the shoulder season—one of the slowest times for tourism. Businesses are opening nearly a full month earlier, extending their hours, and hiring more staff. And birders are wonderful people to have in our area. They’re really nice, they don’t raise hell, they tip well, and many of them stay in the area as long as two weeks to a month. Birders are even starting to purchasing spring birding homes. Who’d have thought that birds could even help sell real estate?!
The sensational birding in this area in is a highly marketable asset, and I like to say that all the birding stars align for us here in northwest Ohio. First, we have major concentrations of birds. When migratory birds are moving north in spring, a large expanse of water poses a daunting barrier. Before crossing Lake Erie, small songbirds need to rest and feed to build their energy reserves. As a result, large concentrations of these small birds converge on the remaining patches of wooded habitat along our lake shore in spring.
We also have great access to some of the best birding spots on the continent for experiencing the migration parade. In addition to our outstanding Toledo Metroparks, the wooded beachfront at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area provides prime habitat for migratory birds, and the position of a mile-long boardwalk in the heart of wooded, lakefront habitat makes these large concentrations of birds accessible in spectacular fashion. And, since Magee Marsh is a state wildlife area, the access is free. And finally, spring migration happens before the leaf out, and before the emergence of mosquitoes, so it's truly birding at its best!
The business plan capitalized on BSBO’s strengths. Our research team had detailed knowledge of bird migration through the area that lent itself to our development of high quality birding services. These services included free birding area maps, bird migration updates and predictions, guided birding services, and up-to-the-minute bird sightings on Facebook and Twitter. To this suite of services we added regional travel information. And, we offered all of these services free of charge. We wanted to establish BSBO as THE go-to source for birding information in the area. In 2010, with all the pieces and players in place, we launched The Biggest Week In American Birding, and in 2014—just four years after it was launched—The Biggest Week became the largest birding festival in the country.
At a time when the condition of Lake Erie has brought a great deal of negative press, The Biggest Week In American Birding has helped to counter that with tremendous positive press coverage. From a major feature on the national television program, CBS Sunday Morning, to multiple features in Birds and Blooms Magazine, Audubon Magazine, and Spirit Magazine (the in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines), the massive concentration of birds and birders in northwest Ohio each spring is a purely positive story that the press has fallen in love with! And, in November 2014, USA Today readers voted Magee Marsh the #1 Birding spot in the country! Yes, the birding really IS that good here!
The Take Home Message
If you remember one thing about this article, I hope it’s this: the connection between habitat conservation and the economic impact of birding tourism. To continue to provide the world-class birding experience that attracts birders from all over the globe, we must be good stewards of the habitat that supports these glorious birds.
Learn more about birds, birding, and Black Swamp Bird Observatory at www.bsbo.org
Learn more about The Biggest Week In American Birding at www.bwiab.com