The idea of a North Carolina birding trail began to take shape in the late 1990s. Work on the actual NCBT began in earnest in 2003 under the direction of a partnership including Audubon North Carolina, North Carolina Resources Commission, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Sea Grant and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
The NCBT will link outstanding birding sites from the mountains to the sea. It will connect local and visiting birders with communities and businesses as well as cultural and educational attractions across the state.
According to Salinda Daley, NCBT coordinator with the Wildlife Resources Commission, “Birding trails have been successful in more than 40 states, generating ecotourism dollars and providing financial incentives to protect vanishing habitats. The N.C. Birding Trail will provide a marketable resource to attract nature-based travelers to the state and will extend the traditional tourist season, particularly during the spring and fall bird migration period.”
The coastal region was the first section of the NCBT completed. It offers 102 birding locations across the coastal plain. The piedmont section, just finished, adds another 104 birding sites to the NCBT. And now birders and nature enthusiasts are encouraged to submit site nominations for their favorite mountain birding spots west of Interstate 77. Nominations for the mountain region will run through April 1, 2008, but I encourage you not to procrastinate if you would like to nominate a site. The nominating forms, which may be downloaded from www.ncbirdingtrail.org/site_nominations.asp are quite detailed.
You can get information about the NCBT including maps and site information by going to www.ncbirdingtrail.org. Bound guides for each region are also being produced. The coastal guide is available now for $10 retail or $6 wholesale from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s Wild Store. Site descriptions include directions, access information, focal species and habitat listings, and on-site visitor amenities. “While You’re In The Area” listings at the end of each grouping offer additional visitor opportunities in the local area. You can contact the store at www.ncwildlife.org or by phone at 866.945.3746.
Originators of the NCBT are well aware of the economic impact of the bourgeoning hobby of bird watching. A 2001 US Fish & Wildlife study reported that North Carolina residents spent about $827 million on wildlife watching during that year and a 1999 economic analysis of The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail noted that trail users spent an average of $78.50 per person per day.
The mission of the NCBT is “To conserve and enhance North Carolina’s bird habitat by promoting sustainable bird watching activities, economic opportunities, and conservation education.”