Can Birdsong Make You Happier?

26 April 2021

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

If you are able to step outside and hear many types of birds, you might also have a greater feeling of well-being.

Two studies show that hearing diverse birdsongs may help increase our happiness.

California study

One study was done by researchers at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly, for short). A research team studied the effects of birdsong on people walking through a park in the U.S. state of Colorado.

A biology graduate student, Danielle Ferraro, led the Cal Poly study. Ferraro says that there could an evolutionary reason why we like birdsong.

"There could be, sort of, an evolutionary reason why we like birdsong so much. And the idea is that when we hear birdsong it could ... signal safety to us."

There could be many other reasons too. Ferraro states that in some areas around the world birdsong can also signal the arrival of spring and nice weather. Bird diversity, she adds, can also mean a healthy environment.

She explained her study to VOA. Ferraro and her team played recorded songs from a diverse group of birds native to the area. They did this on hiking trails in a park in Boulder, Colorado.

This July 7, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Bluethroat in Nome, Alaska.
This July 7, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Bluethroat in Nome, Alaska.

Over several weeks, the researchers played recorded birdsong at certain times of the day and other times they did not. Then they talked with hikers after they passed by.

Hikers who heard the recorded diverse birdsongs reported a greater sense of well-being than those who heard simply the natural birds. The researchers suggest that both the bird sounds and biodiversity can increase feelings of well-being.

Ferraro explained that she used native birdsong for the study. This way it would sound as natural as possible. They also did the study during the summer. She explains why this is important.

"So the study took place in the summer and that's kind of important because the most birds' breeding season. And if we would've played the (bird)song during breeding season, you know, that might've disturbed them. We didn't want to disturb the birds too much."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B in December 2020.

German study

The Science Daily recently reported that scientists in Germany examined for the first time whether a diverse nature also increases human well-being across Europe.

The researchers looked at the "2012 European quality of Life Survey" to study the connection between the different kinds of birds in their surroundings and life satisfaction. They looked at more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries.

"Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives" if their surroundings have a "high species diversity," explains the study's lead author, Joel Methorst. He is a researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (also known as iDiv), and the Goethe University in Frankfurt.

He and his team found that the "happiest Europeans are those who can experience" many different kinds of birds "in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species."

They reported their findings in the December 2020 issue of Ecological Economics.

So, if birdsong is good for our mental health, how can we increase the different types of birdsong we hear?

"I would recommend planting native trees and flowers because we have a lot of, you know, pretty ornamental plants in our cities. And they might look nice to us, but birds can't necessarily use them. So, I think it's important to have species that are native to the area to increase bird diversity."

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

diverse – adj. made up of people or things that are different from each other

native – adj. produced, living, or existing naturally in a particular region

hiking trail – n. a path through a forest that is set aside for people to walk on

breed -v. to produce offspring by sexual reproduction

disturb – v. to interrupt or bother (someone or something)

predator – n. an animal that lives by killing and eating other animals

evolutionary – adj. the process by which changes in plants and animals happen over time

recommend – v. to make (something or someone) seem attractive or good

ornamental – adj. used to make something more attractive

surrounding – adj. near or around someone or something