Percentage of birders in Australia

To: "peter crow" <>
Subject: Percentage of birders in Australia
From: "Dave Torr" <>
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 15:56:30 +1100
A couple of thoughts Peter - excellent summary by the way.

Firstly as you say it is very hard to define what a birder is. For many
years I carried a bird book and bins on holiday (and joined BA in 1991) and
tried to figure out what a bird was if I saw it - but I never actively went
looking for them. My early bird records only show new birds, so I have many
places I went and apparently saw one species, presumably because I had seen
all the others before! Was I a birder then? I only became serious when I
lived in the US and joined the local Audubon branch and since moving back
home I have become much more involved.

Secondly the issue of bird club membership I suspect troubles all bird clubs
- and I suspect that many non-birding clubs have similar issues. One thought
is that in the "good old days" access to information was difficult and
travel fairly hard - often the only way to find out anything and get to see
birds was with a club.

Now with Birding Aus, the various state Birdlines and all the resources of
the Net it is SO easy to find out information - and much easier to travel to
see birds. So clubs have to strive to be more relevant than they were I

Of course we may also present a confusing image to the world - in the UK the
RSPB seems to be the only serious club and in the US it is Audubon (and
apologies to any other clubs I don't know about!). Here we have so many -
not only BA and BOCA but lots of small ones - BA, BOCA and Birds Queensland
for example all in the Brisbane area. How does a birder choose which to
join? Do they join one, several or give up because they are confused?

On 17/02/07, peter crow <> wrote:

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

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

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 >
> 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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