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JANICE WELLS: Life is better with birds

A Baltimore oriole in Renews. — Clara Maher Dunne photo
A Baltimore oriole in Renews. — Clara Maher Dunne photo

A study from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research reveals that greater bird biodiversity brings greater joy to people. Simply put, the number of bird species people can experience in their daily life has a positive effect on their feeling of well-being.

Other studies conclude that people living in neighbourhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. “Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.”

The positive association between birds and better mental health applies with variations in neighbourhood deprivation, household income, age and a wide range of other socio-demographic factors.

Evening grosbeaks in Gander Bay South. — Deon Wheaton photo - Janice Wells
Evening grosbeaks in Gander Bay South. — Deon Wheaton photo - Janice Wells

 

While these studies found that the number of birds seen rather than the species had a positive effect on mental health, this is one point with which I would beg to differ.

I am a backyard birder. I enjoy watching all the regulars visitors to my winter feeders; juncos, black capped chickadees and blue jays. I am even happier when gold or purple finches put in an appearance. A northern flicker will make my day.

Having a visit from a brand new species is downright thrilling.

The excitement last year when I had my first ever red crossbill at a window feeder carried right through to the next day when I waited with bated breath to see if it would come back. Lo and behold, I had a flock of eight crossbills visit every morning for a couple of weeks.

Male and female crossbills at my front window in St. John’s. — Janice Wells photo - Janice Wells
Male and female crossbills at my front window in St. John’s. — Janice Wells photo - Janice Wells

 

The crossbills didn’t mind me practically pressing my nose to the window. This encouraged me to set up a deck chair and sit outside on sunny days to see how close they would come to me. With a bit more time I know they would have been eating out of my hand.

I have a wonderful setup for bird watching; lots of trees and shrubs in a good sized garden; some growing close enough to the windows to make the birds comfortable with my window feeders and three rooms that allow me to sit right next to the windows.

I’m definitely spoiled. Giving all that up would be a huge deterrent to moving to a condo or anywhere not as bird friendly.

The Facebook group Newfoundland and Labrador Birdwatching Group also adds well-being to my day. I enjoy all the pictures posted and many of the group are talented photographers, professional and amateur. And then there’s the friendly and informative chit chat from backyard birders less, equally and more experienced than I am.

A female cardinal in Pasadena. — Heather Butler photo - Janice Wells
A female cardinal in Pasadena. — Heather Butler photo - Janice Wells

 

I feel like I know like-minded people all over the province.

If I go to Twillingate, I will look up Randy Jenkins, known by the rest of us as the Bird Whisperer. (In fact meeting Randy would be reason enough to make a special trip to Twillingate.)

The south and west coasts must have more than their share of contented people. The rest of us live vicariously with not a little envy when we see pictures of species like cardinals, Baltimore orioles, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, vermillion flycatchers and orange crowned warblers.

I had a ruby throated hummingbird visit my feeder in Stephenville almost thirty years ago and plenty of cedar and bohemian waxwings and evening grosbeaks, even a ring necked pheasant in our garden in Corner Brook. I’ve yet to have any of these in St. John’s although a hummingbird has made it as far as Logy Bay.

This week I read of a Baltimore oriole at a feeder in central St. John’s. Apparently they like oranges and grape jelly.

If I ‘build’ it, will they come?

Janice Wells writes from St. John’s.

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