Scientists to investigate human benefits of birdsong
Monday 19 December 2011
Listening to five minutes of birdsong every day can be said to help beat the winter blues, but what other benefits can it bring? A new three year research project that will look into the impact of birdsong on human wellbeing and behaviour is being launched today by the University of Surrey in partnership with the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.
The project will explore the psychological impact of being exposed to the sound of birdsong, including its effects on our mood, attention and levels of creativity.
The research aims to increase understanding of the benefits of spending time in nature and will use studies in the field, laboratory and online to gather data from a broad slice of the population in rural and urban locations.
Researchers will also investigate whether there is any difference between listening to recorded birdsong compared to hearing birds in their natural environment.
It will also rank whether there is any difference in listening to different types of birds sing.
Eleanor Ratcliffe, who will be carrying out the research at University of Surrey, said: “A great deal of anecdotal evidence suggests that we respond positively to birdsong. However, currently there is a lack of scientific research on the psychological effects of listening to birds.
“A mixture of online questionnaires, laboratory work and field studies at National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust sites will help us to build up a clearer picture of how and why birdsong impacts on our quality of life.”
The research project is being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council with further funding from the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.
Peter Brash, National Trust ecologist, said: “As a lifelong birder I've always had birdsong as a natural soundtrack to my life and believe it's good for the mind and soul.
“Birdsong gets us closer to nature and links people to places and memories in a way that few other sounds can.
“It's a simple pleasure that most of us can enjoy, even if we live in towns and cities.”
Andrew Jamieson, Countryside Services Manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: "We know that Surrey Wildlife Trust members and visitors to our nature reserves get so much from experiencing wildlife at first hand.
“Hearing bird song is a big part of that - just the sound of a skylark on a spring day can really lift the spirits.
“The Trust is very excited to be involved in this ground-breaking project, as it will be fascinating to understand more about how experiencing nature makes us feel good."
The results of the study will be used to understand the contribution of birdsong to restorative experiences in nature, explore the benefits of contact with nature to quality of life and develop a concept of ‘living landscapes’.
Last year the National Trust launched a Winter solstice campaign to encourage people to listen to five minutes of birdsong to help combat winter blues and the audio guide was downloaded more than 10,000 times.
Whilst some birds can be heard singing most of the year, such as the much-loved robin, for others, including the beautiful song thrush and the garden regulars of the tit family, the period around the shortest day marks the start of their song season.
Peter La, Press Office at the University of Surrey, Tel: +44 (0)1483 689191, or Email firstname.lastname@example.org