Happiness and the Great Backyard Bird Count

By Virginia Parker Staat

“I don’t feed the birds because they need me;
I feed the birds because I need them.”
~ Kathi Hutton

bird collage
Backyard Birds © Virginia Staat

We have 22 resident bird species visiting our feeders this winter, not including migratory birds. I catch myself standing in front of my kitchen window most mornings, holding my coffee mug and watching the birds flit and fly or chase and chomp. Birds are mesmerizing. They make me happy.

Birds will make you happy, too. A recent study discovered that a greater biodiversity of birds in your yard equates to a greater level of happiness. The study was conducted by the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research. The group surveyed more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries. Researchers concluded that observing more than 14 species of birds every day provided as much satisfaction as earning an additional $150 per month. I guess they put a dollar figure on their findings because the study was originally published in Ecological Economics.

The study’s lead author Joel Methorst concluded, “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.” 

For all the happiness birds give us, we can, in turn, help them this February. The 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15. For more information, please visit the official GBBC website at www.birdcount.org

GBBC is designed to count birds across the globe before their annual migrations. When we participate in the GBBC, we contribute to helping scientists understand global bird populations and patterns.

As an official GBBC citizen scientist, you simply count the number of birds and species of birds you see in any area for at least fifteen minutes. You can count birds in one or many of your favorite places, including your backyard or in a local park. After observing the species of birds and the number of each that you see, upload your findings to your free Cornell Lab account. If you need help identifying birds, the Merlin Bird ID or iNaturalist apps can help. Just download one of the apps to your smartphone and use a photo of the bird to identify it.

Based on the results of the bird diversity and satisfaction study, I’m certain our RMOWP members must be among the happiest people in the world. With our love of the outdoors and commitment to the preservation of our natural world, we can increase our joy even further by counting birds. May happiness continue to fill each of your hearts during 2021.