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Gender Patterns in Bird-related Recreation in the USA and UK

Caren B Cooper, Cornell University, USA
Jennifer A. Smith, University of Birmingham, UK


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Recent studies show inter-related trends in both adult and youth populations in developed nations: a shift away from nature-based recreation, an overall decline in physical activity, and increasing obesity. For this study we examined gender patterns in a nature-based activity, observing wild birds, popular in two developed nations, the USA and UK. We collated data from several organizations and categorized data sources as representing activities that involve varying degrees of competitiveness and acting authoritatively. Patterns were consistent with the hypotheses that gender differences in preferred types of bird-related recreation reflected well documented gender-specific differences in preferences for competition and propensity to act authoritatively. Observing birds encompassed both a recreational hobby, “bird watching,” that was female biased in the USA, and a competitive sport, “birding,” that was heavily male biased among adults, but not youth, in both the USA and UK. Because of differences in gender participation in bird-related activities, fostering both competitive and noncompetitive bird-related activities is necessary to increase the likelihood of bringing larger segments of the population into nature-based recreation.

Key words

birding; bird-watching; citizen science

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087