Bird-watchers spread word that they bring in business

Sunday, May 13, 2012
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— A new campaign will arm bird-watchers with calling cards and encourage them to leave these cards when they shop and eat at local businesses and restaurants.

The cards, which state “Birds Mean Business!”, are designed to highlight the economic activity generated by bird-watching, according to Audubon New York, which is sponsoring the campaign.

The hope, said Sean Mahar, director of government relations and communications for Audubon New York, is that the cards will encourage communities to develop events and programs designed to attract bird-watchers and spark a dialogue with birders about how to cater to them.

“Bird-watching is a great boon to the local economy,” Mahar said. He noted that the Winter Raptor Fest in Fort Edward draws thousands of people as does the Hudson River EagleFest, held this year in Croton-on-Hudson. “We want to see more towns and communities embrace ideas like that,” he said.

According to Audubon New York, bird-watching is the fastest growing outdoor recreation activity in New York and across the country.

Mahar noted that the 2011 movie “The Big Year,” which starred Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson as competitive bird-watchers, helped highlight the fact that birders are willing to travel far and wide to watch birds.

Even so, many businesses and tourism agencies are unaware that people are traveling to their communities and spending money to watch birds, Mahar said. He said local governments can take steps to attract bird-watchers, such as putting information about birding opportunities on websites and organizing bird-themed festivals.

One place that’s already attempting to promote itself as a bird-watching destination is Hamilton County, where bird-watchers make up about 5 percent to 7 percent of the county’s tourists.

The county hosts the annual Adirondack Birding Festival.

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