Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Service Teams with Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to Support Bird Watching

February 20, 2008


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology outlining efforts to work together to promote birding, habitat conservation and citizen science to a broad audience across the country.  The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology leads the nation in involving the public in bird watching, science, and conservation.

The partnership with the Cornell Lab is yet another step forward in the Services National Wildlife Refuge System Birding Initiative.  The initiative was launched by Service Director H. Dale Hall in 2006 to raise awareness among birders of opportunities and conservation programs on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System and help them fully appreciate the importance of refuges in the lives of their favorite wildlife.

"Joining forces with the world-renowned Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in support of birding, bird conservation and citizen science is a natural fit for both organizations," said Director Hall. 

The initiative will help birders make the link between the birds they love to watch and the important habitats protected in the National Wildlife Refuge System.  The Birding Initiatives 14-member Birding Team is exploring new ways to enhance birding on national wildlife refuges.  The team is working on identifying how refuges can improve the quality of bird watching experiences, as well as making information about the latest sightings more easily available to avid bird watchers.  The Refuge System already has more than 2,500 miles of land and water trails that are often perfect places to see birds.  Other outstanding viewing experiences are available from the scores of observation decks, viewing blinds and boardwalks built on national wildlife refuges.

"National wildlife refuges represent Americas premier network of habitats where birds and other wildlife are being protected and nurtured," said John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "These are also remarkable spots for enjoying the global spectacles provided by our nations bird populations. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is thrilled to be partnering with the Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance opportunities for citizens of all ages to interact with birds at these magnificent places and to participate actively in their appreciation, study, and protection."

Discussions are already underway regarding nest watch programs, urban bird celebrations, opportunities for refuge visitors to participate in citizen science projects, and the broader availability of eBird Tracker an online, interactive network of computer kiosks where birders can record sightings, consult video field guides and check seasonal lists of birds. 

Nearly 48 million Americans enjoy watching birds, according to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation

"Bird watching has never been more popular.  With so many people across the country enjoying the wonders of birds, we are committed to providing them with great wildlife viewing opportunities at national wildlife refuges across the country," Hall said, noting that wildlife observation is one of the six priority public uses of the Refuge System.

More than half of all federal lands designated by the American Bird Conservancy as globally significant Important Bird Areas are on national wildlife refuges.  Birding is big business, too.  Birders spent roughly $31 billion in 2006 on all their wildlife watching experiences, including money for binoculars, field guides, bird food, bird houses, camping gear and such big-ticket items as boats, according to interpretation of figures in the 2006 National Survey

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a nonprofit membership institution whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earths biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

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