For a city dweller like me, a typical morning begins with the alarm blaring, maid yelling over the phone, vegetable vendors squawking on the street and shrill horns honking on the busy road. No wonder, I often wake up with an aching head. But amidst this inevitable cacophony, the symphony of birds chirping soothe my headache. I’ve always found birdsongs invigorating.
Factually, birdsongs are a mode of communication amongst birds. Wildlife biologist Shashank Dalvi, who has extensively studied birds in the Western Ghats, says birds communicate with each other acoustically. “They sing for two main reasons. One to establish their territories and the other to attract mates,” Dalvi points out. Generally, it is the males that sing to mark territories and attract females. Understandably, birdsongs are loudest during the breeding season. But these songs are so much more than mere languages of birds. These sounds impact us as well. Here is how.
It is a well-known fact that nature is a stress buster and connecting with it calms us. American biologist E O Wilson’s propounded a theory called ‘biophilia,’ which states that every man has an intrinsic need to spend time with nature. Surprisingly, listening to a birdsong opens our ears to nature’s melody. In fact, sound expert Julian Treasure opines that the sound of birds chirping resets our ears and fine-tunes them to connect with nature. In his Ted Talk, The Four Ways Sound Affects Us, Treasure further explains the psychological benefits of birdsongs. He says birdsongs, just like music, can affect our emotions.
However, birdsongs are different from other music forms. Their uniqueness lies in their randomness. “Depending on the bird species, a song may be simple or complex. Generally, they are long and non-repetitive. But, all birdsongs are stochastic in nature,” Dalvi says. The random pattern of sounds ensures that there is nothing to focus on. Thus, the song neither gets stuck in our heads nor bores us. Treasure makes a point that a bird’s song relaxes us physically but keeps us alert mentally. The sound expert even says that birdsongs can help us focus better.
“Over hundreds of thousands of years we’ve learned that when birds are singing, things are safe.”
No wonder, birdsongs have increasingly found their application in our day-to-day lives. For instance, it is a common practice in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool to play such recordings. The practice has shown to calm anxious patients. Be it a gloomy hospital or noisy public transit places or an enclosed office space, technology has found a way to bring us closer to nature.
Many-a-time, professionals use mobile applications to play recordings of birds chirping. While open office cubicles reduce productivity by a staggering 66 percent, a quiet room with sounds of birdsongs helps a worker perform better, Treasure says. It is safe to say, these sounds are an alternative way to increase efficiency. Yet another study conducted in Liverpool school, run by a company Condiment Junkie, in association with Glyndwr University and architects of Nightingale Associates, reveals that playing birdsongs make us more alert and prevent post-meal slumps.
Besides helping us relax, focus and stay alert, birdsongs are also nature’s alarm. Studies prove that birdsongs guarantee the start of a new day. The energetic chorus that begins just before sunrise and lasts for several hours is called the dawn chorus. The chorus, in fact, regulates our biological clock and stimulates us cognitively. As Treasure says: “Over hundreds of thousands of years we’ve learned that when birds are singing, things are safe.”
Undoubtedly, birdsongs are a wonder. It is a sound we often fail to acknowledge in our lives. It is nature’s own alarm clock to regulate our sleep cycle. It is the music to enhance our mood. It is an energiser to help focus and stay alert. It is a soothing balm to the sick. All in all, listening to a birdsong is a relaxation therapy that eases our mind and helps us unwind.