6 Reasons Why Birdwatching is Important – Our feathered friends are part of us in so many ways! This has continued for a very long time in history. For many personal, societal and conservation reasons birdwatching provides huge amounts of benefits conservationists, birdwatching safari companies and researchers in general.
For birders, Africa remains to be the best destinations on earth. Africa is blessed with diverse vegetation from coastal estuaries, swamps, desert, open savannah, rain forests to mountain moorlands and the peaks that give Africa added advantage to birding safaris.
With over 2300 bird species, around 67% are endemic with a majority found in East African countries with Tanzania taking the with 26 endemic bird species, Kenya is second with 8, Uganda third and lastly Rwanda.
Birding safaris in Africa have been boosted by Africa’s favorable climate that support a stable number of resident species throughout the year. Africa also supports a good number of migratory species that call Africa home during the winter while others come for breeding in Africa.
In recent years, expert ornithologists have testified that African remains the top birding destination where one can spot over 400 bird species while on a 5 day safari and this isn’t easily matched with anywhere in the world.
Contribution to Conservation and Research
Birdwatcher’s contribution to bird research cannot be underestimated. The amount of high-quality research grade data that birders generate is truly astounding.
All of this data enables conservation researchers to generate statistically significant species-by-species snapshots over time. In Kenya for example, Nature Kenya has been running bird walks for over 50 years and this has enabled their researchers to track changes in species populations.
So, armed with the species level data, researchers are better equipped to understand where vulnerable species exist and what may be causing their decline. Apart from that they are also able to monitor and understand the invasive species such as the Indian Crow that is fast spreading from the coastal city of Mombasa and its surrounding beaches to the mainland where sighing have been recorded at Emali. Most importantly, the volume of data they have to work with enables them to produce statistically rigorous evidence, the sort of evidence required to compel authorities to take action.
To science, birds are apex species – and by conserving them, we inadvertently conserve a whole host of other species that are just as important as birds but may not have the same affinity with the public.
Outdoors, Connection and Better Understanding
Birdwatching provides us with an intimate connection with our natural environment. When we share a connection with nature and spend time observing birds, we develop keen interest that ensures long-term enjoyment and attachment that make us to be part of its preservation. These behaviors include, sharing your birdwatching skills with a local school or community, donating to support local conservation efforts, enhancing wildlife habitat on public lands, and advocating for wildlife recreation. So ultimately, more wildlife recreationists such as birdwatchers will lead to better protection of the world’s ecosystems and the inhabitants.
Birdwatching and children
With the modern lifestyle, children spend enormous amount of time either watching television, playing digital games or glued to their hand-held devices. This grants them very little time for outdoors leading them to develop a very poor understanding and appreciation of the outdoors and nature in general.
There is urgent need to allow our children to have the opportunity to engage with nature and there isn’t any better way other than birdwatching. Birding remains an inexpensive hobby that is accessible to most children around the globally just within our gardens and the kitchen backyard. It even sounds perfect if we could loop in friends and families as we explore the nearby parks and city garden or even consider taking a short trip to the nearby waterfronts and grasslands.
For our physical and mental wellbeing
As an engaging hobby, birdwatching involves getting out of our comfort zones and discovering the neighborhoods. Through exploration that could have the physical benefit of getting off your television remote control unit or our fancy laptop and venturing out into our garden. Taking a stroll to a nearby park or even, better a birding vacation away from your usual home or possibly to another country. Please, see our birding details to DR Congo and Kenya.
Birdwatching has long-term physical and mental benefits because of being active and spending quality time outdoors. By being physically active, you reduces the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or having a stroke. On the other side, from a mental health perspective, research shows that exercise helps boost memory and cognitive skills and it has even been shown that regular aerobic exercise increases the size of the brains hippocampus, a section of the brain that is critical in memory and learning. I believe that all of us want to remain young and fit as possible not only physically but mentally too.
According to the Daily Beast, It is estimated that over $800 billion is spent a year in outdoor recreation in the United States, with birdwatching having an economic benefit of $41 billion dollars. Elsewhere, birdwatching is one of the top 10 hobbies globally, with birders having a significant economic impact through their spending on a variety of safari-related and equipment related purchases.
This range from field guidebooks, binoculars, hiking boots, cameras, clothing, telescopes to the cost of the birding safari, air ticket, accommodation and tips to the local guides.
In the US alone, according to a 2011 birding survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, birdwatchers spent $14.8billion on trip-related expenditure and $26.1billion on equipment-related expenditure.
With the above figures speaking volume, we can only imagine the size of the global birdwatching tourism and its contribution towards sustainable direct and indirect jobs opportunities creation and indirectly towards bettering and conserving the world’s fragile ecosystems especially beyond the protected areas.
The Future of Birdwatching
On a personal level, birdwatching is enormously important to me. As someone who has grew up in the beautiful environments of Lake Naivasha where I developed keen interest in natural sciences and passion for birding in general. Together with my spouse and fellow Director, Awuor Oluoko and Ouma Oluoko we are contributors on EBird.
As a business, Oluokos Signature is a beneficiary of Birdwatching Tourism.
Alongside the general Big 5 safari, we do serve quite a number of avid birders who come to Africa for birding holidays. At the family level, I am glad that my passion for birds has been fully accepted where our youngest daughter Taya Oluoko, aged 5 years and can comfortably identify over 21 species on by hearing only! She can differentiate a Red-eyed Dove from the Red-chested Cuckoo and a Tropical Boubou from a Black-headed Gonolek… Isn’t this amazing at her age!
As a birder and a safari operator together with the Oluokos family, we have felt the benefits of a strong bond with nature and the outdoors. We have gone a step further to embark on conservation work in aid of birds in the Aderema Hills and Katotoi Hills respectively. Both are hotspots on EBird for some special bird species in Western Kenya.
Having enjoyed living in different countries in Africa, I’m always at my happiest when I’m immersed in nature. Together with my loving family, birdcalls and fast gushing rivers are my daily routine. Sky watching during the day takes birding to the next level when I have to reason out a possible raptor with my Enrique Oluoko, my son who is my next challenger.
We are strong believers that we can all pass just a little of this passion on to the next generation then a continuation of conservation of our world’s birds and their habitats have the limitless possibility #HappyBirdingWithOluokos