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Birdwatching Surges In Popularity During COVID-19 Pandemic

(CBS LOCAL) - A classic hobby is gaining popularity during the pandemic: birdwatching.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras started noticing the birds outside her window last spring and soon developed a full-fledged hobby.

"They were just this layer of beauty and, you know, nature that you could focus on, and pay attention to, and learn about in a time where the rest of your world was kind of shrinking," she says.

Birdwatching has surged in popularity over the last year, from simple window feeders to outdoor excursions. The online database eBird reports a 37% increase in users documenting their sightings, and more than 2 million people used the Merlin Bird ID app in 2020. Kaitlyn Parkins is a senior conservationist biologist with New York City Audubon, which organizes bird-watching activities.

"I think folks are surprised at what they see once they start paying attention," she says.

Parkins says, "Birdwatching is almost like a meditation, and I think people need that, especially right now."

Part of the appeal is being able to bird watch anywhere and in all seasons. It's also a way to connect with others while maintaining social distance.

Social media has helped the hobby take flight and attract younger birdwatchers.

"I think we've gotten a lot more of a diverse audience in birding. Birding has been historically skewed older, and historically skewed white, and there are a lot of organizations, even pre-pandemic, that were really working on making birding more inclusive and more welcoming."

And the hobby doesn't have to be expensive. Just looking out your window or sitting quietly in your backyard counts.

"If you're looking at birds, you are birding!" says Parkins.

She says if you want to increase the species you can see, invest in a pair of binoculars - and even those don't have to be pricey.

Birdwatchers also emphasize being respectful of birds and keeping a safe distance from them.

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