With the warmer, sunny days of spring, people are anxious to get outside and be more active. Walking, hiking, cycling, golf, and gardening are all popular spring activities. What about birdwatching? Is it really just for older people? This past week one of the world’s strongest upcoming pro cyclists announced in an interview that he was a “birder” and has been for years. (He is only 25 years old). Reality is, birding is a fantastic activity to offset a hectic, stressful life and offers multiple mental health benefits. Birdwatching spiked in popularity during COVID. Anyone can participate in a safe, free, outdoor activity. Remote workers were curious as to what was happing outside their home office window and walkers were curious about the birds they heard while walking.
A study from October 2022 found that seeing or hearing birds improved people’s mental wellbeing for up to eight hours. No other environmental factor (seeing trees plants, water, etc.) had as strong of an effect. Another study in 2017 found that an abundance of bird species in urban areas was associated with lower cases of depression, anxiety, and stress. A study in 2020 showed a relationship between happiness and the number of bird species around people’s homes and towns.
So what is causing these benefits? Experts think its a few things. Being in nature helps improve concentration by decreasing mental fatigue and reduces stress by lowering blood pressure and levels of stress-inducing hormones. Birds tend to lure people outside and increased outdoor activity improves your mood. There is also the fact that birds are everywhere and are beautiful, colourful, and most are lovely to listen to. Birds also remind us of certain seasons and places. Spring birds such as a robin or red winged black bird is a sign of spring and warmer weather.
Birding is easy to get into. It is great for kids and families, and anyone of any age. Here are some tips to start your adventure in bird watching.
1-Bring the birds to you. Set up a feeder in your yard. It does not have to be elaborate.
Even just some hanging pine cones filled with peanut butter will do.
2-Visit natural areas with water. Birds are drawn to water.
3-Use an app to learn bird songs and to identify the birds. Check out this app from The Cornell Ornithological Lab https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/
4-Take a birding course. In-person or on-line, there is lots to learn even about the most common birds.
5-Keep a list of birds you see. Make a note of when and where you saw them, or heard them.
6-Make your backyard a bird sanctuary. Choose native plants that attracts and protect birds. Check out this database from the National Audubon Society https://www.audubon.org/native-plants from the National Audubon Society https://www.audubon.org/native-plants