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Being around birds makes us happier, say scientists. Find out why

A study has revealed that greater bird biodiversity brings greater joy to people. Picture: Boris Smokrovic/Unsplash

A study has revealed that greater bird biodiversity brings greater joy to people. Picture: Boris Smokrovic/Unsplash

Published Jan 17, 2022

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As South Africans, we are fortunate enough to have always had birds cheeping and chirping right outside our windows.

Whether it is a group of common brown house sparrows or Indian mynahs fighting on the roof, a bright yellow weaver shredding the leaves of mom's palm tree in the front yard or the pigeons cooing on the pavements, we see them all the time.

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A study from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, published in December 2020, revealed greater bird biodiversity brings greater joy to people. Scientists concluded conservation is just as important for human well-being as financial security.

The study, published in Ecological Economics focused on European residents and determined that happiness correlated with a specific number of bird species.

The research used data from the 2012 European Quality of Life Survey to measure how species diversity in birds affected 26 000 people in 26 European countries.

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“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,” explained the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst a professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, in a press release.

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“We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income,” added Prof Dr Katrin Böhning-Gaese, also at Goethe University.

“According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous differentbird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species" said lead author Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, the iDiv and the Goethe University in Frankfurt.

The authors calculated being around fourteen additional bird species provided as much satisfaction as earning an additional $150 (R2 300) a month.

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Amid the ongoing pandemic, finding a little extra happiness in even the smallest things is key to survival.

And although buying new things to accommodate your new indoor lifestyle may be a tempting way to boost your mood short-term, there are several ways to do so that are more sustainable, and that won't cost you a pretty penny. One technique that's become increasingly popular during the pandemic has been birding.

Start by noting down the birds you see in your garden or neighbourhood. Placing a birdbath or a shallow dish of water in the open can help attract birds. Watch how they interact with each other and other species. According to BirdLife South Africa, there are 856 recorded species identified in South Africa with 750 of these being permanent residents. How many can you find?

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