By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

For birders, Del Norte County tops 18 states and nine Canadian territories and provinces for the number of birds found.

Four-hundred seven species have been spotted here, according to Alan D. Barron, who's written a bird-finding guide about the area.

It's part of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, which is a andquot;globally significantandquot; concentration of biological diversity. The World Wildlife Fund has termed the area andquot;the Galapagos of North America.andquot;

Del Norte County also boasts the second-largest seabird colony in California. Lake Earl Wildlife Area is the West Coast's largest coastal lagoon area for birds.

Birdwatching, now a $7 billion per year industry, has swelled in popularity in recent years.

Chamber of Commerce-Crescent City-Del Norte County President Chris Howard, by profession a biologist, chose his life's work because of his love of birdwatching - something he'd been doing since he was 6 years old.

andquot;For us it's not a hobby, it's an adventure, Howard said.

andquot;In my case it led to a career, but there's some real nut cases out there,andquot; he said. andquot;They keep life lists, and travel to states to record birds.andquot;

Howard theorizes that's because of the retiring Baby Boomer generation.

andquot;Most of the people I've been taking through the forest might be 55 and older, and they're all the wine and cheese crowd, they have money,andquot; he said.

Sandra Jerabek, co-founder of the Aleutian Goose Festival, decided long ago that she doesn't andquot;need another list in my life.andquot;

andquot;I'm a generalist nature nut,andquot; she said. andquot;If I did, I'd probably have hundreds on it.andquot;

Among the goose festival's goals, Jerabek said, is to bring birders in with the festival and andquot;let them add birds to their lists.andquot;