Birding For Your Health

Discover how birdwatching can do wonders for your physical and mental well-being.

You know the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, you could say that about birds. Sure, birdwatching, photographing and feeding birds is a fun hobby, but there’s much more to it than that. This simple activity can provide major health benefits and add to the quality of life for just about anyone.

We’re always trying to persuade more people to take up an interest in birds, and now we have one of our best reasons yet. Go birding—it’s good for you! Take a look at how a little dose of feathered friends and Mother Nature can have a big impact on your well-being.

Birding Makes You Happy
Although it’s possible to do a lot of birding just by looking out the window, sooner or later birds will lure us outdoors. While this alone can lift your spirits, there really is a scientific tie between your mood and being outside. When we’re outdoors moving around and breathing fresh air, we tend to take deeper breaths. With more oxygen transported to all the cells of our bodies, including our brains, we become more alert, and our mood is likely to be elevated. Also, during half an hour in the sun, we can soak up almost a whole day’s requirement of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for our physical health in a variety of ways, and it also helps to alleviate anxiety and depression.

Birdwatching Makes Friends
Studies have shown repeatedly that a strong network of friends will help you to stay happy and healthy. And if you take up bird-watching, you’ll probably discover many new friendships. An interest in birds brings together people from all walks of life and of all ages and backgrounds. Birding crosses all social and economic barriers and creates a sense of camaraderie that can help forge lasting friendships. Sharing our love of birds with new friends—and with those who have never tried birding—is beneficial for the birds, too! The more people we can get interested in birds and nature, the more support we build for conservation.

Birding Keeps You Physically Active
Birding can be as low-key and relaxing as sitting in a comfy chair and watching the birds at your feeders. But it can also qualify as wonderful exercise. Simply going for a walk might be boring, but going for a walk to look for birds gives you a focus and a reason to keep going. And if you get serious about seeking new and different birds, you may find yourself hiking long distances and carrying all kinds of birding gear. Even if you stay close to home, bird feeding also requires some physical activity. This is especially true if, like us, you live in an area where you’ve got to shovel several inches of snow (or sometimes several feet!) from around your feeding station in winter. Use the birds in your backyard as inspiration to keep moving.

birding healthBeth (beth311)
Birdwatching takes you out into nature, where beautiful scenes like this improve mental health.Beth (beth311)

Birdwatching Takes You Places
Pursuing birds in their natural habitats is bound to shake us out of our normal routines and haunts. Watching the sun rise over a meadow, going out into the woods at night to look for owls, even going to the landfill to see a rare gull—all of these take us beyond ordinary experiences. For many birders, once they’ve gotten to know the birds in their area, there’s an insatiable curiosity about species elsewhere in the world. Birding can be the motivation to travel far and wide. For instance, Kenn has watched birds on every continent. We’re not suggesting that everyone should go to that extreme, but visiting new and different places and exploring the bird life there is an exciting way to expand your knowledge of the world at large.

Birding Feeds the Brain
Keeping our minds active and healthy is essential for our overall sense of well-being. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that if we want to keep our brains healthy we need to keep learning new things. What better way to do that than by continuing to learn about birds? If you are new to bird-watching, just identifying the birds you see can be a challenging mental puzzle. If you are an experienced birder, you can still learn new things every day about the behavior of your local birds. Studies have shown that these kinds of mental exercises can help form new neural paths that can help fight back against diseases like Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and Parkinson’s.

Birdwatching Leads to New Experiences
Variety is the spice of life. This is an old saying, but it’s true. Lack of variety in our lives can lead to boredom and a general sense of fatigue. Adding variety can make us more energized and positive, giving us more to look forward to. And of course, in terms of variety, birds offer a dizzying array of colors, calls and behaviors. You can’t predict all the birds you’ll see while going out birding. On any given day, some of the expected birds will be nowhere to be seen while totally unexpected ones may pop up at any moment. So birding offers both a reassuring sense of the predictable and an exciting sense of the unpredictable, keeping us on our toes and alive to the possibilities.

An interest in birds can be the gateway to a world of discovery. Once you go outdoors and start looking around, it’s almost impossible to just see the birds. Before long, a beautiful butterfly, an intriguing mushroom or some unfamiliar turtle will distract you. It’s OK to be distracted—the birds won’t mind. As we’re fond of saying, when you learn more about nature, your view of the world becomes more three-dimensional. Some of our best friends are humans, but there are about a million other species of living things out there that are also worth knowing. And new experiences make life worth living!

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.