Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Birding, Birdwatching, and Bird Feeding

I earlier reported on the relatively low frequency of Google searches for birding, which seemed somewhat odd considering what has been written in recent years about the growing popularity of the sport. I then hypothesized that a relatively small subset of the people who seek pleasure from interacting with wild birds actually consider themselves hardcore birders (defined as people who keep lists of birds seen and routinely travel to see birds not on their annual or life lists). It naturally follows that people who engage in less-formal viewing of the birds about their homes (i.e., those who might be more inclined to self-identify with the term birdwatcher or birdwatching) would outnumber those who actively engage in birding, and that these differences would be reflected in Google searches. To my surprise, a Google Trends graph actually reveals the opposite result: many more searches for birding than for birdwatching and bird watching combined. Even searches for bird feeders, items that the supposedly more numerous amateur bird enthusiasts would be expected to make on a routine basis, are (surprisingly) less frequent than are those for birding. But when the search term is modified to include both bird feeders and bird feeder (singular), the trend line approaches that of searches for birding, and even indicates brief early-winter peaks of interest in these items, as would be expected. This example illustrates how very small differences in search terminology can alter the results you get from Google Trends, so this tool should be used and interpreted with great caution.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest that you are reading too much into the numbers. I have been birding for decades but the only time I search the web for birding is when I am going to a totally new location. About 4 times in my life. I'd rather go birding than read about it on the web.

August 14, 2006 12:00 AM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

You might well be right, Mike. And your closing sentence expresses a sentiment that would probably be agreed upon by 99.9 percent of birders!

August 14, 2006 1:41 PM  

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