Watching birds, such as this Eastern bluebird in a DeKalb County yard, can have health benefits for mind and body, including lowering depression, anxiety and stress. CONTRIBUTED BY CHARLES SEABROOK

Bird-watching might mean better health and peace of mind

They are springtime scenes that I’ve witnessed perhaps thousands of times in my life:

A bright red male cardinal and an equally colorful female perch on a flowering dogwood tree, making their vivid hues sparkle amongst the pure white blossoms. A bluebird in spiffy breeding colors sings exuberantly from a flowering redbud tree. A red-headed woodpecker drills away at the top of a dead pine.

I never tire of such sights, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. They always brighten my day and lift my spirits. Just watching birds hop, flit and fly about in my yard puts a smile on my face.

As a result, according to several scientific studies, I am apt to have less tension, lower blood pressure and a happier outlook.

In short, bird-watching has health benefits for both body and mind, say the studies. The latest one comes from researchers at the University of Exeter in Great Britain, who surveyed more than 270 people of different ages, ethnicities and income. They found mental health benefits — less stress, anxiety and depression — when people can see birds, shrubs and trees around their homes, whether in urban or more leafy suburban neighborhoods.

The researchers conclude: “Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.” Studies in the United States draw similar conclusions.

If the findings are true, there should be many happy folks at this time of year as spring bird migration moves into full swing — and tens of millions of songbirds return from the southern tropics to North America for their spring and summer nesting season.

To watch the birds and perhaps get a good feeling, take a bird walk this spring. For a lineup of free bird walks, visit the Atlanta Audubon Society at www.atlantaaudubon.org.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will “grow” from new this weekend to first-quarter by next weekend. Mercury and Venus are low in the east just before sunrise. Mars is low in the west at dusk and sets about three hours later; it will appear near the moon on Monday. Jupiter rises in the east around midnight and Saturn rises in the same direction just after midnight.

RELATED: Click or tap here to read previous “Wild Georgia” columns by Charles Seabrook. 

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