Economic Value of Wild Birds

Estimates on how much birds contribute to our economy reflect only a fraction of their value, because the monetary value of ecological and socio-cultural services birds provide has not been quantified. Wild birds have been part of trading and economic activity throughout history. In the United States, severe bird population declines in the early 1900s due to commercial activities led to passage of legislation restricting commercial trade of birds and their parts.

Today, recreational activities account for most of the commercial revenues generated by wild birds in the US. To learn more about the economic impact of bird-related recreational activities see:

Why conserve birds?

Birdwatcher & Snow Geese
[Photograph: John & Karen Hollingsworth, FWS Digital Media Library]

We conserve birds to ensure the persistence of bird populations and species as part of our natural world. Ultimately, we conserve birds because they have value - to individuals, cultures, and societies. Throughout the ages, birds have provided to humans ecological, aesthetic, economic, and socio-cultural values. Some examples of these values are highlighted in this page.

Ecological Role of Birds

Birds provide important ecological services that contribute to maintaining ecosystem processes and some of the necessary conditions on which humans and other organisms depend. These services range from food provisioning to modification of habitats and resource flows in biological communities. Bird declines can have negative impacts on ecosystems, and their sensitivity to environmental change often lends them as useful indicators of environmental quality.

For overviews on the ecological role of birds, see the articles by Whelan and colleagues (2008) and by Sekercioglu (2006). Examples of ecological services and functions birds perform include:

Socio-Cultural Significance of Birds

[Photograph: iStockphoto]

Birds have figured prominently in human culture and societies since prehistoric times and have served as a source of inspiration for creative endeavors. Our enduring fascination with birds extends to different aspects of culture and society, as the following examples show:

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