There is proof that we Seattleites love our native songbirds.
We put an economic value on them of at least $120 million a year, according to a recent study co-authored by a University of Washington professor. That’s roughly $12 per Seattleite and includes spending on birdseed, feeders and bird-supporting activities.
“Some of the value that people put on birds is utilitarian – it makes them feel good to have a bird singing in their yard,” said John Marzluff, a UW professor of environmental and forest sciences. “It's pleasing to look out and see a red finch in your tree.”
U.S. residents spend $4 billion on birds every year, Marzluff said. Twenty-one percent of Americans feed birds; Seattleites spend more than the average American on their feathered friends.
But not all birds are beloved. When Seattleites were interviewed about crows – an arguably brighter species than the common songbird – they said they would pay on average about $8 per resident to reduce their numbers.
Marzluff, who has studied crows, doesn’t find a downside to having so many birds in the city. All birds, he said, “inspire us to think about other forms of life.”
And having more birds might help homeowners.
A 2009 study of the relationship between birds and real estate in Lubbock, Texas, found that more birds in a neighborhood can boost home values. Each additional “favorable” bird species increased the value of a Lubbock home by $32,000.
“That just reflects an overall greener environment, so I think birds are a good signal that other things are healthy in the environment,” he said.
Birds also help by reducing insects – particularly aphids, which feed on ornamental plants, and spiders, which lurk about our basements.
“They actually add fertilizer to the ground, of course, in their excrement,” Marzluff said.