Let’s Go Birding!

by Mary Williams, White Mountain Audubon Society

Did you know that birding has been encouraged by mental, physical, and spiritual advisors to promote good health and wellness? What’s ‘birding’ you might ask. In the words of Jim Burns, noted Arizona wildlife writer and photographer, “Bird is a Verb.” In other words, we DO something when we interact with the avian world.

What do we do? Well, mentally we can relax and focus on something besides the frequent stresses and pains of daily existence when we look out our windows or go for a walk and see these beautiful and fascinating creatures. We can exercise our brains a bit in efforts to recall their names and do research with the many classes, books, and apps available to help us identify them, their behaviors and the likelihood of their appearing where we are.

The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology website allaboutbirds.org is an excellent resource. In an October 27, 2022 article in WebMD, “Birds Good for Our Mental Health,” Jay Croft reported: “Academics from King’s College London found that hearing birds, seeing them, and having ordinary
encounters with birds improved the mood of people who have depression, and of the broader population as well.” https://www.webmd.com/…/birds-good-for-mental-health

In “Teaching your mind to fly: The psychological benefit of birdwatching,” Christopher W. Leahy reminds us that “Birders are a community, and while birding in solitude can be a great form of meditation, it can also be emotionally rewarding to share a (non-stressful) relationship with those who
share your passion.” Published July 13, 2021 by the Princeton University Press. https://press.princeton.edu/…/teaching-your-mind-to-fly…

Physically, birding prompts us to get out of our homes for some fresh air and exercise. Even before the pandemic, there was an increasing awareness within the scientific, medical, and educational communities that venturing into nature to find birds was beneficial – whether socially distanced or interacting with others. In the Winter of 2019 Audubon Magazine published “Birding with Benefits: How Nature Improves Our Mental Mindsets.” Jill U. Adams reported that “Mounting scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of the outdoors is helping shape innovations in medicine, education and more… blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones all drop with time in nature.” https://www.audubon.org/…/birding-benefits-how-nature…

And spiritually? Many world religions and cultures throughout history, including our Native American ones, are known to revere and even worship birds. As a proponent of the Judeo-Christian worldview, I worship a creative Creator – to whom I express deep gratitude for my flying feathered friends. Although each species does have its own ecological niche, there really are few practical reasons for the vast variety of colorful, melodious, interesting, and sometimes astonishing birds.

Creativity! Think about this: there are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world. More than 2,000 in North America. More than 550 in Arizona. So far, 344 species have been logged on eBird in Navajo County, 367 in Apache County.

Let’s go birding!

White Mountain Audubon Society President Mary Williams lives year-round north of Show Low. She encourages you to check out birding opportunities in our area at whitemountainaudubon.org and to follow the White Mountain Audubon Society on Facebook. WMAS meets on the first Wednesday of the month from April through November. Meetings feature interesting guest speakers and are free and open to all. Mary’s article above was first published in January of 2023 in The Maverick Magazine.