The black-backed oriole typically subsists on monarch butterflies in the forests of central Mexico, but when one appeared in suburban Pennsylvania last January, thousands of birders flocked to get a glimpse of one of the species’ first appearances in the United States. The bird’s arrival was interesting, but the birders’ arrival was important, too. A single unusual bird sighting, a group of researchers realized, could contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the economy and help put a dollar value on wildlife. “If you can put a dollar amount to a bird and value that ecosystem biodiversity, that’s something policymakers can understand,” said Corey Callaghan, lead author on the paper published in the journal, Human Dimensions of Wildlife. “Policymakers don’t necessarily understand why they should care about bird x in location z, but if they know that’s a potential revenue source, then it’s something.” A PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales in Australia, Callaghan noted the black-backed oriole’s (Icterus abeillei) arrival at a backyard feeder in Berks County, Pennsylvania in late January 2017 on the American Birding Association’s Rare Bird Alert Facebook group. In a rare-bird chase, known as a “twitch,” over 1,800 birders from across North [...]
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Can a ‘twitch’ be a pitch for wildlife?
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