Calling on birds to improve our health

Jose Santiago

By Emma, 8th grade | November 2021 … Don’t underestimate the importance of birds. The sound of their calls can actually improve your health.

That’s according to Jose Santiago, who works for Audubon, a national organization that helps protect birds and the environment.  Stress and anxiety can be reduced by listening to the sounds of birds, Mr. Santiago said during a recent interview with the East Norriton Bulldog Bulletin.

“Bird calls can calm and relax you. It can reduce your anxiety and stress,” he said.

The Victoria crowned pigeon sparked Mr. Santiago’s interest in birds. He said he first saw the bird while working at the Philadelphia Zoo. He found it interesting because of its unique deep coo. “I have to know more about this bird,” he recalled thinking, “Then, it snowballed for me, wanting to learn about a lot of different kinds of birds.”

Mr. Santiago is now the Center Coordinator at The Discovery Center in Philadelphia. Audubon partners with another organization—Philadelphia Outward Bound School—to provide outdoor experiences and education.

Mr. Santiago said birds have their own stories to tell. Many migrate great distances.

Some people have migrated themselves from faraway places. That move can be stressful. But, he said, seeing a bird from their former home can be calming and make them feel more comfortable in their new home. “Birds exist outside of the context of just what we see. They exist elsewhere, too,” Mr. Santiago said.

Birds are important for another reason. “Birds are an ecological indicator if an area is healthy,” Mr. Santiago said. “Having not only an abundance of birds, but a variety of birds shows that a place is healthy.” 

Bird-watching also takes people outside where they can be more active, which is good for their health, he said. Seeing birds is also a reminder that they should take care of the environment and keep it clean for other people to enjoy, he said.  

Citing research, he said that there are a lot of mental health benefits to being outdoors which is especially important during a global pandemic.  “It reduces stress,” he said. “You’re not feeling cooped in.”

So the next time you are outside and see a bird, listen to its calls. You might be surprised how relaxing it can be.

—Emma is on the Bulldog Bulletin staff.