Garden bird survey could help mental health

Birds such as this waxeye will be the subject of the annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey which begins today and runs online until July 2, 2023. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

This story by John Lewis originally appeared in the Otago Daily Times.

While participating in the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey is obviously good for birds, it turns out it may also be good for our mental health.

The country’s longest-running annual citizen science project begins today, and it is hoped thousands of people will sit in their gardens for an hour sometime over the next nine days, to count birds.

Data from the survey will help scientists understand the health of garden bird populations and the wider environment.

However, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research environmental social science researcher Dr Gradon Diprose said the survey might also be good for the health of those participating in the count.

In 2020, surveyors were asked about their experiences while taking part.

He said some people talked about how they did not have time to join a conservation or nature group, but they liked being able to participate in a large collective effort like the bird survey because it was more flexible.

They liked they were part of something that involved thousands of other people who cared about the same thing — birds and nature.

“A majority of people also reported a greater sense of wellbeing after spending time in the garden.

“We had people saying it was a good opportunity to slow down.

“Participants talked about feeling curiosity, joy, fun, wonder and a sense of connection.”

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