A new app is working to reconnect humans with the great outdoors.
Birding social network Birda helps outdoor adventurers identify and record various species of birds.
But it’s not just something for avid birdwatchers.
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Birda co-founders John and Natalie White, who are based in West Langton, Leicestershire, UK, revealed in an interview with Fox News Digital that their app aims to give back in more ways than one.
“We wanted to create this space that could unite people around a common passion,” said Natalie White.
Birdwatching is a hobby that brings together people of all ages and skill levels across the world, she added.
And since the coronavirus pandemic, interest has only blossomed as more and more people have been forced to go out and hang out there, she said.
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“It has been documented that things like bird feeders and birdseed – sales of these have increased by [about] 50% during the pandemic,” she said.
She suggested that the COVID-era interest in birdwatching has “really stayed” with people – and Birda aims to promote these ongoing “healthy habits”.
“It’s not just a great hobby to have,” said John White. “But it’s also something that’s healthy and good for you too.”
The co-founders also mentioned the correlation between spending time outdoors and improved mental health.
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According to Birda, some users have reported that the app has helped improve their mood by motivating trips outside with built-in incentives.
How the app works
The app’s design is meant to — and has been proven to — motivate users to get out there every day and achieve their goals, the co-founders shared.
The “niche social network” feature taps into users’ locations to target local reserves and bird species in those areas.
This allows birders to limit the areas where there are birds they haven’t seen yet.
Birda can then help identify the bird species users have spotted, while logging them into the app.
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Users can post photos of what they have seen and share them with their followers and communities.
“People are always learning and sharing their experiences,” said Natalie White.
John White added: “If anyone posts something [about a bird and] they don’t know what it is, there will be lots and lots of people with local knowledge helping to identify the species.
Birda users are motivated by app incentives, such as badges for completing monthly challenges, as well as tracking their number of “wild days” – or consecutive days spent outdoors in nature.
“People are always learning and sharing their experiences.”
“It’s also supposed to be fun,” Natalie White said. “It’s supposed to be something you feel like you enjoy.”
The UK-based husband and wife have always shared a passion for wildlife after living in South Africa for 10 years.
“It sparked my passion for the natural world and how important it is to have these kinds of relationships,” said Natalie White.
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While living there, the couple came across rare wildlife sightings, including a specific encounter with a leopard.
This encounter sparked the idea of launching an app that would allow nature watchers to share their sightings with friends and family.
The two settled on birds as the focus of their business venture, as they realized birders were the “most engaged” in the wildlife space.
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“The sense of community is really strong,” said Natalie White.
“And that’s something we always wanted – to be a driving force behind what we were doing to bring people together.”
She added that no matter where the users are, there are always birds to see.
“You could be a city dweller and still have that same connection to wildlife,” John White said.
“And you can’t really do that with wildlife in general.”
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“Birds are everywhere,” added Natalie White. “Some of the best birding activities you can do are in Central Park…in the middle of a huge city.”
Natalie White, who focuses on Birda’s marketing and design, said they were able to get Birda off the ground easily since the pair’s distinct skillset complemented each other.
After launching the company in early 2022, Birda now has a team of 11 employees.
Along with helping others build healthy habits and grow the birdwatching community, Birda has spread her wings with greater influence.
The company has been officially approved by the UK’s National Biodiversity Network to submit data to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).
John White explained how this enables wildlife sighting data captured on Birda to benefit conservationists and researchers around the world.
“We have a lot of cool systems and processes to make sure the data we submit to these custodial organizations is of very high quality,” he said.
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Natalie White highlighted how the partnership is “amazing” since anyone can spend five minutes of their day birdwatching while contributing to conservation efforts and habitat protection.
She called it a “win-win.”
“Even if you have your average Joe going out and recording what he sees, that data – once it’s been cleaned up – is still incredibly useful to scientists,” said John White.
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The Whites have revealed that their next step with Birda will involve younger children in birdwatching as they have seen their two young daughters develop an interest in the hobby as well.
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“There are no real barriers to entry,” said Natalie White.
“And I think if you have that love from an early age, it will follow you all your life.”
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