Mittermeier, J.C., Roll, U., Matthews, T.J., Correia, R. & Grenyer. R. (2021) Birds that are more commonly encountered in the wild attract higher public interest online. Conservation Science and Practice, 3(5), e340. DOI:10.1111/csp2.340.
Large body size, the defining characteristic of “charismatic megafauna,” is often viewed as the most significant correlate of higher public interest in species. However, common, local species (many of which are not large) can also generate public interest. We explored the relative importance of body size versus local occurrence in patterns of online interest in birds using a large sample of digital human-wildlife interactions (367 million Wikipedia pageviews) that included more than 10,000 bird species and a range of cultural and geographic contexts (represented by 25 Wikipedia language editions). We compared interest in Wikipedia, as measured by pageviews, with a bird's body size and its regional observation frequency (using data from eBird.org). We found that local species (i.e., those that occur in the wild in the country responsible for the majority of a Wikipedia language edition's pageviews) attract more pageviews than global species. Both body size and observation frequency had a positive correlation with Wikipedia pageviews across languages, but eBird observation frequency explained more of the variance in pageviews on average. In a model that included both observation frequency and body size, observation frequency was a significantly better predictor of pageviews than body size in 24 of 25 languages. Our results demonstrate that the opportunity to encounter birds in the wild is a significant correlate of increased online interest in birds across multiple linguistic and geographic contexts. This relationship provides insight into why some species attract greater interest than others and emphasizes the overlooked potential of common species in conservation marketing.