Interest in bird feeding soared in more than 100 countries around the world during Covid lockdowns, according to new research.
The pastime became more popular during the pandemic even in nations not historically noted for bird feeding, say scientists.
The findings, published in the journal PLoS One, found that people on six continents, and in both hemispheres, are interested in feeding birds.
Study co-author Professor Jacqueline Doremus said: “Feeding wild birds is a popular nature-based pastime because of its simplicity, low cost, and accessibility in even urban environments.
“Previous research has shown that there was a surge of interest in bird identification and bird feeding in the US and some European countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Doremus along with colleagues in the United States and Australia analyzed whether there was increased interest in bird feeding and wild birds at a global, individual-country scale during and after Covid lockdowns compared to before.
The research team also examined whether the level of interest in bird feeding in a country is linked to the variety of species there.
They assessed the weekly frequency of search terms – such as “bird feeder”, “bird food”, and “bird bath” – on Google for all countries with sufficient search volumes from January 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020, to see if an increase in bird searches occurred during each country’s specific lockdown period.
The team also accessed nation-level bird species data from BirdLife International to measure the variety of species.
“There was a significant surge in bird feeding interest as measured by frequency of bird-related searches across 115 of the countries surveyed during the general lockdown period, in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres,” said Doremus of California Polytechnic State University.
“Countries that lacked bird-related search interest had an average of 294 bird species, whereas countries that demonstrated a bird search interest had an average of 511 bird species, a significant increase in bird diversity over countries measured as less interested.”
She said that because the proxy measurement for bird-feeding interest is a Google search, countries with lower income or less internet access may not have been sufficiently captured despite their bird-feeding practices.
However, the team noted that their method was still able to capture a “surge” of interest in bird feeding in countries including Kenya and Pakistan, rather than traditional locations such as the UK and the US.
“The Covid-19 lockdowns likely encouraged people all over the world to seek connection and interaction with their local bird communities,” said Doremus.
“Up until now, most evidence on bird feeding has been limited to the US, Europe, Australia, and India, however, we suspected bird feeding might be more widespread.
“This is important to know because bird feeding affects bird health and migration patterns.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
Edited by Priscilla Jepchumba and Judy J. Rotich