Since I was a little girl growing up in Wisconsin, I have been drawn to the birds that surrounded my home. My first recollections were the red-winged blackbirds sitting on the phone lines; the robins hopping around searching for worms after a rain; the ducks and geese flying in formation overhead; and the many sparrows fighting to get their spot at the feeder in front of the kitchen window. I remember sitting quietly watching and listening to the birds and feeling, for a lack of a better word, happy.
I continued my interest in backyard bird feeding throughout my adult years. I remember the excitement I shared with my children when a Downy Woodpecker first came to visit our feeder, and later with my grandchildren who identified my backyard as their “personal zoo!”
As a geriatric social worker for 40 years, I met countless elders living in their own home or in elder care homes who were passionate backyard bird feeders. Their eyes would brighten as they described the antics of the chickadee or the persistence of the squirrels. No matter their physical or mental condition, if they had a bird feeder, it appeared to bring pleasure and purpose to their lives.
In 2011 the US Fish & Wildlife Service identified 2.1 million Wisconsin residents as “wildlife watchers,” including bird feeding, identifying birds, photographing birds, etc. Those of us who enjoy bird feeding have our own understandings as to what draws us to this hobby, but psychologists and sociologists have actually studied this subject, and have concluded that bird feeding/watching contributes to our overall well-being, no matter our age or physical capabilities. Here are just a few of the findings:
- Bird feeding makes us happy – Bird feeding takes us outside; breathing fresh air; getting out in the sun — “There is a scientific tie between mood and being outside” — even if you can only sit and watch.
- Bird feeding keeps you physically active – Walking out to the feeder is exercise; needing to shovel a few inches of snow! Filling the feeders. Any physical movement is healthy — “Bird feeding can be an inspiration to keep moving!”
- Bird feeding makes friends – A network of friends help us stay happy and healthy. Sharing our interests and passions creates strong friendships, which we all need.
- Bird feeding feeds the brain – Variety is the spice of life! Identifying birds through sight or sound and observing their behaviors is like a mental puzzle — “Neurologists tell us we need to learn new things to keep our brains healthy!”
Birds are everywhere and they are accessible! You don’t have to travel farther than your own backyard to experience their beauty of color and song.
Birds are ever-present. As the seasons change, so will the variety of birds that visit your feeder. Each day will be a new day for bird feeding.
My personal experiences of years of bird feeding, and my professional work with individuals of all ages, led me to the belief that all humans have an innate connection toward nature throughout their life span. Connecting with nature does bring a sense of peace, calm and happiness.
Backyard bird feeding is good for the soul and body. Your feathered friends are waiting to get to know you, so what are you waiting for?