Perceptions of Bird Watching's Negative Ecological Impacts: Stakeholder and Recreational Specialization Comparisons



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Birding, the act of observing birds in the outdoors, is a form of nature recreation and traditionally considered ecologically benign. Unfortunately, birders, in the pursuit of interactions with wild birds, can have negative impacts on birds and critical bird habitat. Often, competition for space or resources can create conflict among recreational users and bird conservation initiatives.

People involved in maintaining birding recreation as well as ecological conservation include stakeholders such as birders, birding guides, and natural resource managers. Comparisons of negative impact perceptions were investigated among birder specialization categories, and between birders and other stakeholders. This study is a comparative analysis of how birding's negative impacts are perceived by the people involved in recreation and conservation. Further examination of the recreational specialization theory as an indicator for birders? perceptions of birding's negative impacts was also conducted. The purpose of such comparisons is to gain an understanding of different stakeholder needs to better serve and utilize the resources available.

Justification for the study came from a series of structured interviews. Preliminary interviews with birding stakeholders identified perceived negative impacts from birding and conservation strategies to address those impacts. Separate on-site surveys, tailored for each of the three stakeholder groups, were conducted to assess stakeholder perceptions of birding's negative impacts to the ecology of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

Survey results indicate that as birders progress in increased specialization, they more often perceive birding's negative ecological impacts. This means that the most intense birders recognize negative ecological impacts from birding more frequently than birders with less experience, investment, or lifestyle tendencies. Additional results indicate that birders, in general, perceive negative ecological impacts less frequently than bird managers and birding guides. These results are indicative of experience or education as a means to facilitate increased ecological awareness. Finally, all stakeholders supported education and outreach strategies for bird and bird habitat conservation. This study has provided scientific data analysis of birding's perceived negative impacts, as well as strategies for bird conservation. This work provides needed data on the human dimension of natural resource use conflicts for natural resource managers, who require better understanding of their constituents to accomplish recreational and conservation conflict management.