Dec. 17, 2012 — As millions of us post our Christmas cards -- many of which star a robin red breast -- ecologists are investigating whether birds make us happy. Speaking at this week's British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, researchers will reveal how they are investigating the links between birds and our well-being, and explain how their results -- due out next year -- could have a major impact on UK bird conservation.
There has been an increasing amount of research on the health benefits of green spaces such as parks and nature reserves, but we know far less about how the wildlife within these habitats contributes towards well-being benefits.
Take wild birds for example says PhD student Natalie Clark from the University of Reading, who is leading the study: "Most of us say we enjoy seeing wild birds in our local environments every day, be that the friendly robin visiting our garden each Christmas or ducks swimming in the local pond. But we have little idea of how much we value their presence and how they're contributing to our overall well-being."
Given the declining numbers of many bird species the study -- which also involves the University of East Anglia, the RSPB and the University of Chicago -- is timely. "Any well-being benefit we may be receiving could soon be in jeopardy as numbers of many wild bird species have declined across the UK since the 1970s," says Clark.