Percentage of birders in Australia

To: Trevor Hampel <>
Subject: Percentage of birders in Australia
From: peter crow <>
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 14:54:44 +1000
Dear All,

After we have defined "What is a birder" we can talk of how many there are. But.

Birds Queensland, one of the smaller birding groups engages in quite a few activities with the general public and our members talk to lots of people about birds and it never eases to amaze us just how many people are interested in birds. Activities include having a stand at the Brisbane Exhibition for ten days each August when we would talk to hundreds and possibly thousands of people.

Those who stop for a chat are interested. Some have little knowledge while others have extensive knowledge but very few if any belong to a birding organisation. WHY.

Replies include, "No time" "Look at birds at work, on holidays, in parks, when opportunity arises etc etc." Others are simply not interested in getting involved.

Another posting said in UK people are joiners. In Australia people are NOT joiners. They do their own thing.

Tim Murphy said Bq has about 450 members but that is subscriptions It is more than this. However many, about 45% are subscriptions for more than one person. Sadly the majority of members are over 50s, that time when people have time to follow their own interests instead of working for their mortgage or kids education.

My theory, which could possibly be incorrect is that we, the birders, do a rotten job of selling birding organisations. BQ has actively attempted for some years to ensure the local people know of us and of what we do. This has produced a constant stream of new members each month.

Sadly,too often, membership usually lasts a few years thus our membership grows very slowly. The problem is obviously that we have much to offer beginners and interested people but after a few years, when they know it all, (or a lot) they have no further need of membership.

Our current society needs a constant stream of new interests and attractions and we don't seem able to supply these. Sadly the two large birding groups seem to be in the same boat.

There are thousands out there interested in birds but they don't join or stay members of birding groups. Dr Darryl Jones of Griffith Uni suggests that over 40% and possibly as high as 60% of Brisbane suburbanites feed birds. That means at least 400,000 plus in Brisbane have some interest in birds.


On Saturday, February 17, 2007, at 10:51 AM, Trevor Hampel wrote:

Sean Dooley wrote:

But then again, my 1999 edition of Pizzey and Knight states on the cover that 40,000 copies had been sold. So unless people bought multiple copies or 30,000 visiting overseas birders bought it, the actual figure may be higher
than my 10,000 estimate.

Hi Sean and other dedicated birders,

Quoting sales figures of popular field guides and bird books gives a truer indication of the broader interest in birds than just membership of clubs and organisations. I suspect that the interest in the beauty and sometimes the unusual behaviour of birds in parks and gardens is far bigger than we think. For everyone who purchases a bird book, there would have to be another nine who are "bird lovers" or "bird observers" who would not identify with the term "birder" or belong to any club and not even buy a book about birds.

Sean's comments made me do a quick summary of my friends, acquaintances and family and I had no trouble coming up with thirty names of people I know who observe birds from time to time. They all know I am a birder and will comment to me on birds they have seen, or bird behaviour they have observed. I often get emails or phone calls asking for help with identification.

So for every person who identifies with the title "Birder" or "Bird-watcher" there could well be 30-40 people who occasionally observe birds in their daily lives, especially in gardens but who would not call themselves a birder as such. These people rarely keep any formal records of their observations.

Here is a huge, untapped potential membership for our birding organisations. I suspect that the membership fees are too prohibitive for those on the fringe. It could be as simple as not being a > priority.

From my own experience in blogging about Australian birds (see link below) over the last 18 months I would estimate that about 90 per cent of people commenting on my articles would not call themselves birders, but who are interested in birds ie they are "bird lovers". Then you have another group who are looking for information or help because they have had a close encounter with birds in their garden.

In summary then, I suspect that the true number of Australians who identify themselves as "birders" would be somewhere between ten and twenty thousand but the number of people who are aware of our birds and take a casual interest in them could well exceed 200,000. This is an untapped resource for programmes such as the Atlas and Birds in Backyards.

Trevor Hampel
Murray Bridge
South Australia

Check out my BLOGS (web logs):

Trevor's Birding - observations and photos of birds at

Trevor's Travels - travels in Australia, Thailand and Nepal at

Trevor's Writing - read some of my writing at

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