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Monday, October 22, 2012

Birding Becoming Less Popular?

So, we all want to believe that birding is as popular as ever, maybe even growing in popularity.

But here are some sobering figures--Google search trends.  Here is a graph for Google searches on the term "birding"--

Is that a graph that inspires confidence?  Looks like birding has dropped quite a bit as a Google search term,  though perhaps holding steady now?

Likewise with the American Birding Association.  I personally think the ABA is doing a lot better these last few years.  But the Google search trends for the ABA don't show it picking up as much as I would like to think--

So these appear to be going down.  Here's how birding compares to declines in overall searches for hobby and leisure category:

I don't know what to make of this, or what it all means.  But it looks like something worth talking about, so I'll throw it out there.

What's going on with these numbers?  Why is birding and the ABA not showing stronger results?  What are we looking at here?

Update: This topic has provoked an interesting exchange over at the ABA Facebook site.


The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Rob, take a look at the graph when all you enter is "birds". That even confuses the matter more.

Unknown said...


I know that governmental medical groups use Google search data like this hoping to observe and then predict the spread of flu bugs, so there must be something valid related to the power of Google search trends.

Have we proliferated and saturated the online birding world so well that people go straight to the sources without searching? Have Google searches themselves changed? I know that I often start typing a search word in the browser and a list pops up recommending sites to me before I even finish entering my search word and I click on the site I want without ever truly completing a search. Could that be the case?

birdchaser said...

Zen, yeah, that's interesting. Birds as a search term is more popular than ever. Birding, not so much.

Robert, I'm guessing when Google autofills a search term for you, and you click on that, it still counts as a search.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't make too much of this. You get similar results if you enter things like "golf", "nascar", "fishing", and probably a number of other things. I sincerely doubt that all these very popular activities are also losing popularity at the same rate. These charts to me have the look of something that isn't really well calibrated or normalized, and can be very easily misinterpreted.

There are other, better ways of gauging the popularity of birding. Namely, count heads at birding fairs, field trips, NWR admissions, subscriptions to listservs, etc.

Eric DeFonso

Rick Wright said...

This is really interesting, Rob; thanks for posting it! I think in the case of the ABA, RM is right: at long last, the organization has such a strong and conspicuous web 'presence' that those of us who used to get there by way of searches now do it by means of bookmarks. I see that as only good news.
The decline in searches for 'birding' is weird, though. Who knows, maybe people are actually going outside rather than birding by internet (he says, sitting at his computer).

alex said...

@The Zen Birdfeeder, the most searched terms here ("birds") seem to be related to the very popular "angry birds" game, rather than increasing popularity of birdwatching. Unfortunately. I found that Birdchaser's observation is supported by some related search trends, such as "wildlife", "birdwatching" and "ornithology".

It would be interesting to see how related searches in languages other than English compare...

joated said...

A number of folks have stopped using Google as their primary search engine. Could this not effect the results? Seems likely when you consider the drop in the other topics mentioned by the Anonymous commenter above.

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