Skip to main content

You make this possible. Support our independent, nonprofit newsroom today.

Give Now

How Much Do Seattleites Love Their Songbirds? $120M A Year

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.

Why you can trust KUOW