Wellness | 02.22.2024

How Birds Can Make You Happier

A woman looks slightly happy as she watches birds outside her home.

By Franki Hanke

I picture joy as a fleeting, short-lived thing that’s usually in a novel environment like experiencing a new town for the first time or trying highly anticipated food that is just as good as everyone said! But, happiness is a bigger-picture concept. How can we be happier everyday? Maybe you’ve tried to practice gratitude journals or other hot health and wellness habits, but happiness is complex, and it hinges on a lot of your life. But, there is one hobby that can tip the scales in your favor towards being happier: birding. 

How does birding make me happier? 

Researchers found people living in neighborhoods with more birds (shrubs, and trees) are less likely to suffer from negative emotions experienced during depression, anxiety, and stress. The study included over 270 participants across demographics. More birds spotted from their windows, in their gardens, and in the neighborhood day-to-day led to improved mental health. 

“Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live,” said Dr. Daniel Cox, research fellow. 

More recently, further research has supported that seeing birds or hearing birdsong has the same link to emotional well-being, so even if you’re not actively watching for the birds, hearing them outside your window while you work can alleviate mid-day feelings of anxiety. 

If you’d like to be happier every day, increase the likelihood of seeing birds daily. 

Does birding make us more mindful?

There’s less specific, scientific evidence on more complex questions around the benefits of birding, but we can casually see the relationship behind focusing externally on a bird in front of us as a healthy habit. 

When we look at birds, we’re in the present moment. We’re focused in front of us. If paired with some deep breathing, this is akin to meditation. 

How to Start

Bring birds to you. 

The easiest way to use birds to boost your well-being is by bringing the birds to you! Create an environment at home that entices your local birds by providing food and water. There are simple ways to start bringing more wildlife to you. 


Using a variety of different feeders and food types can help attract different types of birds to your yard. Squirrels will try to get into any feeders, so unless you know they can’t reach it, opt for squirrel-proof feeders. 

Mesh Feeder

A mesh-sided feeder allows birds to cling to the side or use the perch positions. The top features a clamp opener to prevent squirrel break-ins. 

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Finch Feeder 

Featuring a smaller mesh size, this mesh-side feeder is ideal for Nyjer or Thistle Seed favored by finches. 

Buy from Amazon

Window Feeder

Perfect for getting birds at your taller windows, this window feeder is an attractive copper with sleek stickers (rather than unsightly suction cups) to securely attach. 

Buy from Amazon


Adding an option for freshwater will encourage birds to drink and bathe on your property. I’ve even had deer visit my bird bath for a drink! Ensure that water is frequently changed and consider using a solar fountain to keep it moving. 

Extra Tools

Save yourself some headaches when it comes time to refill your feeder(s) with this handy storage container and pourer in one. Once I started using this, I cursed myself for just hauling the bag around for months prior. 

Buy from Chewy

When you first put out new feeders, be patient. Birds won’t be there the next day, it takes some time to discover a new food source. Keep them clean and full for them, and the birds will eventually come. 

A pair of birds eating from a window-mounted home feeder.

Find birds outside. 

Going outside to spot birds benefits you in a suite of ways from the impact of the birds themselves, the natural environments and fresh air, the sunshine, and the physical activity of walking. 

If you hope to see birds, visit parks or nature preserves with bodies of water which often increases the rates of wildlife. Consider joining a local bird-watching group like the Audubon Chapters. If you’re not up for meeting up with strangers, tune into a birding podcast like the sassy, sometimes raunchy Birdchick Podcast or story-rich Field Guides

However, you don’t have to go far from home to spot them, even just a small loop on a lunch break can infuse some bird-based happiness into the rest of the day. 

Once you’re getting into it, treat yourself to a pair of binoculars to start seeing birds at a further distance and more detail. Nocs Provisions offers cute, waterproof binoculars under $100.  

Know your local birds. 

Learn more about the birds you’re spotting with a regionally specific field guide. Stan Tekiela, wildlife photographer and naturalist, has written over 200 field guides for an accessible, specific starting place to identify your local birds. 

Tekiela doesn’t offer a Hawaiian guide, so Hawaii on this list is from another high-quality field guide collection by the American Birding Association. 

Find the book for you:

While I love a field guide as a curated resource, for quick, streamlined identification, use the free Merlin Bird ID app

Track your sightings. 

If you like collecting or documenting, start logging your bird sightings to add to your “life list,” that is, your lifelong sightings of different species and variations of birds. I recommend this affordable option from a fellow birder. Scientifically, this practice boosts the hobby’s impact as it scratches the urge to collect. 

Seeing a new bird, especially if it’s rare to spot, triggers a rush. “Specific areas of their brains light up when the unusual are presented. This may be why we seek the unique when we collect. It stimulates our brains in areas that connect to our pleasure center,” wrote Shirley M. Mueller M.D. for Psychology Today

Embrace it.

Birding can feel a bit silly sometimes, especially if your loved ones aren’t practicing the same fascination with local wildlife (or maybe a teasing co-worker), but embrace it anyway. Birders who tuned into the joy they felt had even better mental health benefits from the practice. 

An open, excited state of mind will make it easier to properly test out this option. A raise in happiness levels will pay out! 

Will seeing some birds drastically change your life? It’s unlikely, though there are people who do have stories like that, but it’s small, positive habits that can add more self-care (and serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins) towards a happy life. This is one avenue with a low price tag to be happier everyday and improve your health. 

Continue reading to tackle the other aspects of your life to be happier everyday from getting enough sleep, regular exercise, or other habits for a happier life.

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