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Birds and happiness

One of the great joys of spring is the return of the birds. Whether in the middle of the forest or in large urban parks, we are pleased to hear new chants and wonderful melodic flights, glimpsing the sudden explosion of a colorful suite.

Does contact with a bird make you happy? According to a British study published in the Scientific Journal nature, Yes. The title of the article itself is categorical: Smartphone-based real-time environmental assessment reveals mental health benefits for birdlife (“Instant smartphone reviews show mental health benefits of wildlife”).

The authors, who are mainly from King’s College London, note that there is a growing number of studies reporting the benefits of being in touch with nature on mental health. Some focus on regular contact with green spaces, such as forests and large parks, while other studies focus on “blue spaces,” such as the sea, lakes, or rivers.

There has been work on the effect of winged animals on mental health, but according to the authors of the British study, it is not entirely satisfactory. Most of them use questionnaires that participants complete after the fact, which can lead to errors. Other actions are performed in an artificial context: participants sit in front of a computer and are shown pictures of birds or made to hear their songs.


Hearing or seeing a bird, like this waxwing, is good for the spirits.

Instead, the British team designed an app that communicated three times a day with participants to ask them how they were feeling at that particular moment, with around ten targeted questions. The app then asks them if they see or hear the birds.

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Statistical analysis of all responses showed that well-being was higher when participants were in the presence of birds. This effect was somewhat persistent and persisted in both healthy participants and those diagnosed with depression.

The authors are aware that their study has limitations (participants were recruited from a few social networks, mostly white at the university level, etc.), but believe that these findings still call for more exposure to winged animals. Some doctors already prescribe exposure to nature. They can specifically add bird-rich habitats.

They concluded that “it is essential to adopt environmental policies to maintain and improve a mosaic of habitats in rural and urban areas”.


The famous red-winged blackbird Trillium, one of the signs of spring

Push the song

Sometimes it seems that the birds are just expressing their happiness when they sing. This is not really the case, says Jean-Sebastien Janet, general manager of QuébecOiseaux. In fact, it takes serious reasons to push the song.

“Singing is a huge expenditure of energy,” he recalls. Plus, they attract predators. »

Birds (mostly males) sing for two main reasons: to advertise their territory and to attract females.

“The interest is well worth the risk associated with saying, ‘Here I am, come and eat me,’” Mr. Genetti says.

However, bird watchers rejoice as much as anyone when spring comes and songs erupt in the early morning.

Some birds just aren’t content with the morning, like the red-eyed vireo and the brave vireo. “These are two who sing sharply until noon, never letting go.”

Mr. Genet also mentions starlings who imitate other birds, but has a weakness for woodland birds. “It is a very small bird, but it can sing for a minute without stopping, without holding its breath. I have always liked it »

There are birds that have a less melodious tone, such as crows and bluebirds. “When you hear the blue jay, you think: What? Is this beautiful bird singing like that?”

And the one that makes ornithologists laugh is the noble bald eagle, which looks like an ordinary seagull. “It’s disappointing. So much so that when you see an eagle in a movie, they give it the call of the red-tailed hawk, which is actually a bird of prey.”

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Time stopped

Philip Lariviere’s short film about the solo climb of Cape Trinity, directed by Tom Kanack, is now available on YouTube. Here is an excerpt.

Number of times a week: 2.6%

This is the proportion of Quebec’s land covered by the province’s network of national parks.