Birds can Help us Through This. Here's How.

Spring migration is underway and many of us are homebound. How do we respond?

In these unsettled times, connecting with the steady rhythms of the natural world feels more important than ever. After all, studies have consistently shown that being outdoors can improve our mental health. But for many of us, the options are now limited. Springtime birding trips are canceled, visits to local parks feel risky, and, in some harder-hit cities, even casual walks are rare. For the first time in many of our lives, birds are on the move and we're not.

So, what do we do? At ABC, we're promoting the idea of Bird Therapy and encouraging everyone to spend a few minutes observing birds each day. The idea is simple: Birds bring balance to our lives, and if we can't go to them, we'll let them come to us.

Baltimore Orioles can help us do bird therapy. Photo by Brian Lasenby/Shutterstock

Baltimore Oriole. Photo by Brian Lasenby/Shutterstock

How Do I Participate?

It's easy: Just bird. Since many of us are restricted to our homes right now, we'll focus on watching from porches, yards, or even through windows. Take photos or notes of what you're seeing and share with our community. You can do this on social media by using the hashtag #BirdTherapy or by simply leaving comments at the bottom of this blog post.

Every week, ABC staff will contribute ideas on how people can not only appreciate birds but do something to help our feathered friends.

Bird Therapy is for everyone, regardless of age and birding skill. The only prerequisite is a desire to connect with the birds and share with others.

Why Bird Therapy?

As many birders can attest, birds just make us feel better. By paying close attention to their presence, we wake to the present moment, letting go of stress and other worries. When things are tumultuous, they remind us of the natural world's enduring power, providing a source of joy and stability. And, during periods of isolation — like now — they connect us.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Photo by Mike Truchon/Shutterstock

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Photo by Mike Truchon/Shutterstock

Bird Therapy Tips

There's no right way to do  Bird Therapy. We all relate differently to birds and will find ourselves in different circumstances. Still, keeping a few things in mind can help make the most of this exercise.

Don't rush: Before beginning, sit quietly for a few minutes. Observe your breathing. Watch the thoughts that come and go. Relax. When you start observing birds, be patient. These aren't ordinary times and typical timetables don't apply.

Stay positive: Being at home is difficult, but it isn't without silver linings. As life slows down, we have a chance to observe things we typically overlook. As plane and car travel become less frequent, it's easier to listen to birds. And, as spring arrives, so do millions of birds.

Listen: We're typically guided by our sense of sight, and it's easy to ignore the full range of sounds our ears provide. Take a minute to close your eyes and listen to the sounds that surround you.

Share: During these trying times, we need each other, and we want to hear from you. Please take a moment to share what you're seeing: Your photo or observations may brighten someone else's day. Conversely, check this blog and ABC's Facebook and Twitter accounts regularly to find out what others are seeing.

Enjoy: Birds have inspired humans for thousands of years. This spring, we could really use their inspiration. Take a look outside and let them lift your spirits.

Share What You're Seeing! Bird Therapy Gallery

On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, friends of American Bird Conservancy have used the #BirdTherapy hashtag to share their observations — and some truly remarkable photos. This slideshow features just a few of the birds our Twitter followers have seen this spring. What about you? We hope you'll join us on our social platforms and share your photos, too, with the #BirdTherapy hashtag. If you're not on social media, though, it's no problem! Just use the comment section below to share what you're seeing and how the birds are helping you. We'd love to hear from you.

  • Eastern Towhee by Eddie Ledbetter

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52 Comments

  1. Joe Lowe

    April 1, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Let us know what you’re seeing!

    • Deb Caldwell

      April 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm

      In the Middle Rio Grande region of NM and Bosque del Apache NWR, we’re seeing (so far this spring) Bullock’s orioles, black-chinned hummingbirds, scarlet tanagers, vermillion flycatchers, and some of our regulars – white crowned sparrows, Gambel’s quails, greater roadrunners, and many varieties of finches

    • Tom Smith

      April 8, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      In Washington, Utah. I have a pair of Say’s Phoebes (Fly Catchers) that have been trying to build a nest on fan blades over our patio. The blades are on a slant, so all of the material kept falling off. But they persisted. I turned the fan on slow for a day to encourage them to find somewhere more suitable. Shortly after I turned the fan off, they were back at it. I decided “if you can’t lick’em, join’em”. I strapped a styrofoam “plate” onto one of the blades and put all of their nesting material into it. They immediately took to it and now they have a nice nest built up and we are expecting to see two or three fledglings some time this spring.

      • Patty

        April 8, 2020 at 1:49 pm

        How lovely! I enjoy all kinds of critters and am trying to coax any and all into my yard. Last spring we had a Robin’s nest on the light fixture above the garage door. I saw that there were 3 eggs and waited patiently for them to hatch. I hope they all come back again this year!

      • Barbara Gleason

        April 9, 2020 at 1:24 pm

        Beautiful! And by the time their babies fledge maybe it’ll be warm enough to need the fan…

      • Deborah Uffindell

        April 18, 2020 at 12:33 am

        What a nice story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gene Kelly

      April 8, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      Thank the Lord we have an early spring! Not many landlubber birds, but our spring visitors on the lake our a welcoming site. The ducks, geese And diving swallows are very visible! The Merganzers, Mallards, Canadian Geese, & Canvas Backs have all made their usual stop-over! Only Mr. and Mrs. Robin have made do usual inspection. Still a little chilly here. Daffodils are blooming, Sun is shining, all looking forward to a happy spring.
      I will miss the Easter welcome events caused by this unwelcome virus. God bless everyone, especially our USA!

      • Deborah Uffindell

        April 18, 2020 at 12:35 am

        Yes, thank God for spring!

    • Margaret Webster

      April 8, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      I am still seeing painted and indigo buntings, blue Jay’s, cardinals, hawks, carolina wrens, titmouse and doves

    • Daphne Dodson

      April 9, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Lots of woodpeckers–downy, hairy, yellow bellied sapsucker. Brown creepers, nuthatches, great blue heron snowy egrets, turkey vultures. Great fun!

    • Jane C Petz

      April 11, 2020 at 11:07 am

      I see Cardinals, Chickadees, Black birds, Robins, and Sparrows. When I am along the Kalamazoo River I can see Blue Herons and Nuthatches as well. I will hear the Woodpeckers but not sure which kind because I can’t see them.

  2. Debbie

    April 8, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    A couple of weeks ago, I identified a small area which is pretty much unused and is close to my house as my “patch.” I created a flag for it on e-bird. I’ve been spending 45 – 90 minutes a day there after breakfast and keeping a list. Pretty much very regular stuff – although a few species that I haven’t seen in my back yard which is nearby. It is surprising how a new species for the area can make my day and how much I look forward to this solitary walk each morning.

  3. Holli

    April 8, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you for all this wonderful information as a bird watcher myself I’m learning how to be at peace with our ever so changing routines that have been recently disrupted. Bird therapy is my saving grace!

  4. Anne Mitchell

    April 8, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Well, I thought the Junko was ubiquitous and didn’t pay much attention to them. But now there is a pair nesting ON the Ground in a flower bed I haven’t yet prepared for late spring planting. Now I’ve learned they all nest on the ground, and it will only be 26 – 30 days before they are done and gone. My flower bed can wait another month here in Portland, Oregon.

  5. Jayjay

    April 8, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Well, we have 5 single bird houses and 2 multiple homes, watching them every hole has a pair of birds so my husband just made 2 more blue bird houses and we put them up. We have multiple pairs of bluebirds around. This morning our first golden finch made his appearance with his mate. I love those. But then my husband called me and the bluebirds actually took residence in the two new houses that were just put up. We’re thrilled.

  6. Andrea

    April 8, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Bald eagles, herons, GoldenEyes, grebes, hummingbirds, surf scoters, mallards, spotted towhee, song sparrows, cormorants, kingfisher … !!!

  7. Helen Alexander

    April 8, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    I have been spending every nice day out on our back deck watching birds. I love the regulars, but it is a thrill to see a few migrants. I saw a Hermit Thrush in in the far backyard a week ago and a couple of days ago I watched as 3 or 5 migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglets foraged in the Holly tree not far from the deck. I had never seen them flash their crests before nor had I heard them sing. They did both to my delight. I live in an urban area just outside of D.C. in Maryland.

  8. Melanie Heckel

    April 8, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    I live in Grass Valley, CA and always look forward to the arrival of the first Black-headed Grosbeak at my feeders and put the date on my calendar. Today is the day! I saw my first male grosbeak and can’t wait for the spring rush of them. They are so beautiful and fun to watch. They usually arrive about April 10 so they are a couple days early. Made my day!

  9. Martha Gutierrez

    April 8, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    There’s 2 robins pulling worms from a patch of grass, they’re fighting in midair, there’s Canada geese in lake of a park, the robins have gone their separate ways.

  10. Lisa Hertz

    April 8, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    I livery in Hop Canyon, south of Magdalena NM at 7500 feet. My house is stucco on the bottom and cedar wood on the top and we have flicker woodpeckers we had to build houses for since they were pecking our wood siding. We also discovered the American Kestrel uses the abandon woodpecker houses too and saw one yesterday outside my bedroom window. I haven’t been able to get a photo of the falcon though.

  11. Erin Chen

    April 8, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    In Northern Virginia, we’re enjoying the Goldfinch at our feeder, the pair of Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, and a pair of Bald Eagles and their two eaglets that have been spotted at a park near our house!

  12. Bonny

    April 8, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    I am in Massachusetts and have the joy of watching crows build a nest right across the street from my house. They are amazing birds and such teamwork goes into the nest!! This is keeping me happy right now.

  13. Julie Birb

    April 8, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    I love birds so much. I really do. I subscribe to alot of the eagle cams around the US. I was on a desert hike last Saturday and seeing and hearing birds made me so happy. I saw juncos and mountain bluebirds.

  14. Nancy Kinsey

    April 8, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    What a great idea. I have been bidding and feeding wild.birds for 40 years. Since we have been staying home I spend some time each day outside. It soothes my spirit and soul to listen to songs.without seeing the bird and guess what kind of is.

  15. Leon Grobler

    April 8, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Hi
    I’m from Durban,KZN South Aftica where we are going into Autumn. However we still have plenty of bird life. Look forward to sharing the different types of birds we have here.

  16. Jenny

    April 8, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    I had my first Evening Grosbeaks of the year today here in Monte Vista, Colorado.

  17. Mike Meisinger

    April 9, 2020 at 5:41 am

    I live in West Chicago, IL. There is a small lake with a walking path around it in my neighborhood. In the last two weeks, there has been (and I have photographed) a loon, a great blue heron, and a bald eagle in the area. We also have several other common birds like robins, red wing blackbirds, sparrows, cardinals, wren, starlings, chickadees and finches. I feed them every morning from my deck from a bag of country mix.

  18. Amy Simso Dean

    April 9, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Great post. I started a page on Facebook — @Bird by Bird — that teaches people birding by introducing 1 bird per day.

    I usually spend spring taking kids out birding in after school classes. With that shut down, this was my way of sharing my love of birds.

    Thank you for your continuing work!

  19. Amber Burnette

    April 9, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Here in the Minneapolis metro, we have a spring for the first time in 3 years. Last year and the year before we had 8 inches (x2) and then one-14 inch snow in April. It’s been great to see Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-rumped warblers, and Golden and Ruby-crowned kinglets all have plenty of insects to feed on as they begin passing through. The FOYs each day gives some foundation and comfort. @Hawkgrrl2525

  20. michael wells

    April 9, 2020 at 11:00 am

    For the first time in 5 years since I discovered a Red Tailed Hawks nest at a local park, I observed: Both the male and female adults simply standing in the nest side by side March 23rd here in SE Michigan. Mike

  21. Michael Derer

    April 9, 2020 at 11:18 am

    We have a robin “attacking” our rear slider glass door on a regular basis. It flies at the glass a hundred times a day when it’s around. We taped a predator bird silhouette to scare the robin but that only made it try to attack the cutout. I have a photo of the robin but not sure if I can attach it here. Does anyone know about this type of behavior?

    • Anonymous

      April 9, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      It’s very common this time of year, especially with Robins and Cardinals. Right now birds are establishing territory and if they see their reflection they attack it.

  22. Rebecca

    April 9, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Hello from Wisconsin! My family and I live right next to a marsh, and we have many bird species actively returning to their nesting sites. My favorite return is the song sparrow! We are patiently waiting for the return of the orioles, cat birds, and thrashers (they usually arrive together)Currently we have nesting sandhill cranes and Canadian geese! We feel so fortunate to have our birds restoring us to sanity each day!

  23. Sharron Mankus

    April 9, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    Here in northern Minnesota in the last two days I’ve seen Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, White Breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, Chickadees, Blackbirds, European Starlings, Juncos, Robins, Mourning Doves, and White Throated Sparrows. I love seeing the birds return and waking up to them singing.

  24. paula goffe-wood

    April 10, 2020 at 3:30 am

    I’m having a relationship with a speckled nitejar at +-
    6pm each nite we sing to each other I’ve learned there call and it’s such fun.
    This is something very new to me, I can here very clearly as it is so quite at the moment.I live in Bellville Cape Town.

  25. C Slaughter

    April 10, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Relaxing

  26. Joan Mcminn

    April 10, 2020 at 8:21 am

    I see the regular osprey nests, thousands of ruby throated hummers cat birds mocking birds king fishers egrets and herons and now the purple martins I am not a bird watcher but these r always in my yard so I do enjoy seeing the spring return

  27. Bonnie

    April 10, 2020 at 9:45 am

    I do this most mornings when I get to sit up and have coffee. I have 9 bird feeders, not counting my 3 hummingbird feeders. 🙂

  28. Keith W

    April 10, 2020 at 9:49 am

    Sounds like a great idea.

  29. Keith W

    April 10, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Literally hundreds of thousands of geese – mainly Snow and Canada Geese – have already passed overhead heading here in Ottawa, the last large conglomeration of humans they would see and by now most have reached the tundra. They stop here to rest in our flooded corn fields. One interesting thing I’ve learned this spring is just how HUGE the Raven nests are. As big as osprey. I’d add a picture but I can’t see how to do that …

  30. Brenda Hoss

    April 10, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Here in NW North Carolina, I am watching 8-10 Goldfinch, a few Junco, a pair of Towhee, Bluejays, Cardinals, an occasion Wren, Doves, a pair of Chickadees, and a few more species. On our lake in the community, last week I observed 8 Cormorant and two Loons. This week there is only one Loon and no Cormorants. I have also been watching an Osprey. I am awaiting the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds which usually occurs around the 15th of April. Happy birding to all!

  31. Roxane Kenline

    April 10, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    A visit to the Iroquois National Refuge and observing a bald eagle in it’s nest, spotting and making our annual list of spring birds sighted brings great joy!

  32. Carol Brockfield

    April 11, 2020 at 12:47 am

    I’m going to try feeding a crow (boiled popcorn kernels).

  33. Debbie Peterson

    April 11, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    It’s that time of year in mid Michigan!!! time to put out our feeders for the magical tiny bird that brings good medicine. Welcome back hummers 💕

  34. Helene

    April 12, 2020 at 7:24 am

    I live in Henniker, New Hampshire. Yesterday I watched two Eastern Phoebes feasting on mosquito larvae in a ditch of water beneath bushes. They paid no attention to me. Also a pair of blackbirds were wading in the water’s edge and turning over leaves with their sharp pointed beaks. This connection brought me peace.

  35. Jenna

    April 12, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    In NH we are seeing: Eastern Towhees,Great Blue Herons,Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, Robins, Woodcocks,many Warblers returning.Louisiana Water thrush, Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers,
    Chipping Sparrows.Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, Wood ducks.
    New Spring migrants returning daily!

  36. Gail Wotanowicz

    April 13, 2020 at 8:51 am

    I observe birds every day here in Florida. I am lucky enough to live on a preserve where almost daily I may see: doves, cardinals, blue jays, wrens, hawks, red-bellied woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, painted buntings, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and this time of year I am seeing swallow-tailed kites.

  37. Shayndel Shofar

    April 13, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Come check us out plenty to see, plenty to share.
    Retired Backyard Birders
    Locate us on Twitter and Youtube.
    We Love Birds & Nature.

  38. Diann G Lewis

    April 13, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    This is one of the best things I’ve ever read!!! What is more readily available to us all than the nature around us? Even in a big city, we can still hear the birds chirping…and even if we aren’t fans of other “creepy” creatures, they all have a job to do, right?

    • Clare Nielsen

      April 15, 2020 at 9:42 am

      Hi Diann, thanks so much for the feedback. We’re so glad you enjoyed the content and that you enjoy the birds and all the other creatures!
      — Clare Nielsen, VP of Communications at American Bird Conservancy

  39. Deborah Uffindell

    April 18, 2020 at 12:31 am

    I love watching and listening to birds, especially in the spring when the males are amorously singing to attract the females. I also love to photograph them. Thank you for encouraging us to enjoy the therapeutic effects of this wonderful creatures.

  40. Anonymous

    May 3, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Love this! So true.