This one is for the birds. Or more specifically, about some of the unexpected benefits of birdsong, defined as “musical vocalizations of a bird or birds, typically uttered by a male songbird in characteristic bursts or phrases for territorial purposes.”
While some of those sounds may be annoying (possibly woodpeckers and crows), research shows that many kinds of bird sounds offer relief from mental fatigue and stress, thus improving mood, alertness and attention.
Studies with schoolchildren confirm they are more attentive after lunch when they listen to birdsong, and weary flights arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport are refreshed listening to bird melodies in the relaxation lounge.
What constitutes restorative birdsong? It depends on what sounds the bird makes.
Generally, people find birdsong that is quiet, high frequency or has some kind of melody to be the most soothing. If it’s harsh or monotonous, those sounds can agitate.
However, people who have fond memories of enjoyment attached to a particular birdsong often find even the most irritating bird sounds – such as the sounds of chickens or wood pigeons – to be stress relievers.
Depending on cultural influences, some people revere the owl’s sounds because the bird symbolizes wisdom and endurance, while superstitious folks can easily dislike an owl’s hoot.
Researchers rely on the birdsong’s clarity and consistency to study environmental disturbances like droughts and wildfires. They’ve used “bird bioacoustics” to analyze the health of California forests after wildfires.
In Central and South America, they use this diagnostic tool to monitor the effect of coffee farm pesticides on the bird population, and along the Pacific, they find remedies with bird bioacoustics to prevent birds from crashing high-tension power lines.
Bird sounds serve as a sound buffer for cognitive challenges in the environment, especially close-quarters housing or office cubicles. Focusing on the comforting sounds of nearby Mother Nature helps replenish lost energy.
We are fortunate here in Laguna Woods to have tree-filled neighborhoods, a perfect breeding ground for plenty of birds. This year, I’ve seen more bird varieties than usual.
A few apps can easily help identify singing birds — Merlin Bird ID, created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, offers a wealth of information, from easy birdsong identification to finding out each night how many birds flew over your house migration during. Last time I checked, the total in my area was 163,000.
Shazam is another app, and if birds aren’t chirping in your neck of the woods, the Calm app features melodic birdsong on its lake sounds choice. Well, that’s it “for the birds.”
Writer, editor and speaker Cheryl Russell is a Laguna Woods Village resident. Contact her at Cheryl@starheart.com.