Study Finds Being Around Birds Makes Us Happier

Does spotting a unique little feathered fellow outside your window put a smile on your face? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, the greater the variety of birds in your surroundings, the happier you are likely to feel.

Scientists from the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, the iDiv, and the University of Kiel conducted large-scale research on whether diversity in natural surroundings increases human well-being.

Using data from the 2012 European Quality of Life Survey, which examined how European citizens felt about objective circumstances and their lives in general, the researchers studied the connection between the diversity of bird species in their surroundings and the life satisfaction in more than 26,000 adults from 26 countries.

They found that exposure to an additional 10% of bird species boosted the respondents’ satisfaction with their lives as much as a comparable increase in income.

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“Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity,” the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt, said in a statement. “According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

Why birds? Primarily because they are one of the most visible types of wildlife, especially in urban areas. Even if you can’t always see them, you can often hear birds singing. Another aspect that influences life satisfaction is the surroundings where birds are often found, such as in lush green parks or near bodies of water.

Duckling snuggles on mother duck's back
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Unless you are already an avid birder, you likely have more avian species in your area than you realize. Websites such as eBird and apps like Merlin Bird ID can help you discover and identify the birds that live or migrate near you.

In addition, a well-stocked bird feeder, a clean water source and lots of native plants and trees can help you attract a variety of beautiful birds to your yard — and perhaps increase your overall happiness.