Coronavirus: Bird-watching soars as popular hobby during pandemic

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If the kitchen is getting stuffy from all that bread-baking during the coronavirus pandemic, slip outside and look to the skies for the newest national pastime: bird-watching.

As the weeks of COVID-19 quarantine wear on, Americans are flying the coop and flocking to the great outdoors during nesting season and peak migration for hundreds of bird species, The Associated Press reports.

A brown-headed nuthatch bird in North Carolina. An interest in birdwatching has soared nationwide as bored Americans look up from their Zoom meetings or the unemployment website and notice a fascinating world just outside their window.?

A brown-headed nuthatch bird in North Carolina. An interest in birdwatching has soared nationwide as bored Americans look up from their Zoom meetings or the unemployment website and notice a fascinating world just outside their window.? (Michael P. Kopack via AP)

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For example, the free bird identification app from the esteemed Cornell Lab of Ornithology was downloaded 8,500 times during Easter weekend alone, with downloads up 102 percent year over the past year. Visits to Cornell's live bird cams have also doubled. Downloads of the National Audubon Society's bird identification app, too, doubled in March and April as compared to the same time last year, while unique site visits have increased by half a million.

Conner Brown uses binoculars to look for birds in Cedar Island, Maryland.

Conner Brown uses binoculars to look for birds in Cedar Island, Maryland. (Elizabeth Wright/Courtesy of Conner Brown via AP)

“The world of birds is so much more vibrant and active than I’d ever realized, and once I paid attention, it just hit me in the face,” said Conner Brown, a 25-year-old law student at Stanford University. “It’s given me a reason to get out of the house, it’s motivated me.”

Brown and his brother spent the early days of the pandemic playing the Pokemon Go mobile game before they noticed a more fascinating world right outside their windows.

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“I thought, ‘Why don’t I take up birding?’ It’s like real-life Pokemon Go,” Brown explained. “It’s super addicting because you can start logging them and you get a little collection. It’s really cool.”

The law student, who is currently living near Annapolis, Md. has since learned to identify dozens of bird species, deciphering the calls of the brown-headed cowbird and cardinal. Brown even bought binoculars that attach to his iPhone camera, downloaded specialized bird-watching apps, and is sharing birding advice on social media.

In this April 27 photo, amateur bird watcher Michael Kopack Jr. holds his camera in the background while two nuthatches land nearby in Angier, N.C.

In this April 27 photo, amateur bird watcher Michael Kopack Jr. holds his camera in the background while two nuthatches land nearby in Angier, N.C. (Michael Kopack III via AP)

The newfound bird lover is hardly alone in finding the wildlife observation to be a great escape amid the ongoing outbreak. Preliminary figures indicate that sales of bird feeders, nesting boxes and birdseed are spiking, The Associated Press reports.

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“The birds don’t know that there’s a pandemic,” said amateur bird watcher Michael Kopack Jr of Angier, N.C.  “It kind of takes us back to a magical time six or eight weeks ago when there was no pandemic.”

Kopack recently installed a birdhouse at his home and has been monitoring a pair of bluebirds as they hatch their eggs.

“It lets me decompress and get away from everything that's going on in the world, at least for a little while."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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