Great Lakes Great Birds
Millions of migratory birds are using Nature Conservancy sites to rest and refuel as they cross Great Lakes states toward summer breeding grounds.
Matt Williams puts down his binoculars and listens intently. He just heard what he thought was the call of the elusive golden-winged warbler. The call comes again—a buzzy, two-parted song. First a long note on a high pitch followed by four shorter, lower notes.
Matt has been hiking the Cowles Bog Trail in the newly-renamed Indiana Dunes National Park, hoping to see (and hear) as many bird species as possible. With its varying habitats and miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, this area is a hotspot for migrant birds.
After another call or two, the beautiful warbler comes into view. Williams swaps his binoculars for his camera and takes aim. He hopes his pictures match the magnificence of the bird.
Matt is The Nature Conservancy’s director of conservation programs for Indiana and an avid birder. Last year, his photographic book, “Endangered and Disappearing Birds of the Midwest,” was published.
Birdwatching is Big Business
Matt is not alone in his quest to observe birds. Far from it. If you took all the attendance from every NFL game and added the total attendance from every NBA game in 2017, that total still wouldn’t match the number of birdwatchers in the United States. (Attendance is 39.3 million, and birders number 45 million!)
These birders are passionate about their hobby. The latest figures from the USFWS estimate that birdwatchers spend an estimated $80 billion dollars a year on binoculars, cameras, travel and other hobby-related expenses.
For example, the Biggest Week in American Birding, the annual one-week birding festival in northwest Ohio, draws between 60,000 and 70,000 people. The Nature Conservancy is part of many great birding events in the Midwest every year.
Great Lakes Birds
The Nature Conservancy is for the Birds
But birds are so much more than just checkmarks on a birder’s life list. They provide benefits to all of us. They not only pollinate many species of plants and flowers, but they keep insect populations in check. Birds have been estimated to consume 98 percent of certain insect pests, including codling moths, which are a major agricultural pest.
Across all Great Lakes states and beyond, TNC has been protecting and improving bird habitats for decades. Take a minute to check out some of the amazing places where we work on the interactive map. Even better, visit some of these places. Unite with The Nature Conservancy for the birds!