Birds of Happiness

And so, remember this, life is no abyss
Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness

                                                ~ Sandor Harmati

Twenty-five years ago, we made a major addition to our house that expanded the kitchen and featured a string of large windows overlooking the back yard with a view to the mountains on the north. Originally, I put up one bird feeder that was poorly maintained, often empty and had mostly millet from our local feed store. It attracted mostly sparrows, house finches and squirrels. At some point, someone gave me a tube feeder that held Niger seed and attracted smaller birds, including some transitory goldfinches and pine siskins, to our side yard. Eventually, we added another big feeder for the backyard and we now buy wild bird mix to fill it and Black Oil sunflower seed for the original one, still maintaining the Niger feeder on the side of the house.

For nearly 40 years, as we improved the yard and garden, we have consciously added bird-friendly shrubbery and made sure to keep the different zones accessible – lawn, shrubs, trees. Since we’re situated in a transition zone between the infinite plains to the east and steep foothills and mountains adjacent to the west, we get a lot of birds from the different ecosystems. The usual suburban birds are expected, but we also get visiting mountain birds, plains birds, and forest birds all either living here or passing through routinely.

As a result, at any given time, we see multiple Eurasian collared doves, house finches, sparrows, robins and chickadees. The furtive Nuthatches skulk around looking for the bugs in the tree trunks and feeders, and seem to be very wary of humans and dogs. There’s a neighborhood Blue Jay couple and a flicker or two working the lawn for grubs or spilling millet to get to the sunflowers seeds. (The separate sunflower feeder helped with that, but the wild bird seed has sunflower mixed in, and the big birds like to search for it there, spilling the other seed.) Local flocks of ravens or magpies will sit at the tops of the trees and scold our dog — who chases them if they land in the lawn. The Northern Flicker adds his jungle sounds to the ravens’ chirr, the jays’ squawk, the doves’ coos and the chirps and peeps of the other birds.

We’ve also seen Blackheaded Grosbeaks, Sharp-Shinned Hawks, Hummingbirds, Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Great Horned Owls, Red-Tailed Hawk, Vireos who occupy ground spaces where dead leaves gather, and Warblers that generally take up residence on the fence lines in piles of limbs — how they chhh-chhhhh-chhhhh when a cat gets near!

It’s pretty nice out there.

Carly Nairn reports, “A new study reveals that greater bird biodiversity brings greater joy to people, according to recent findings from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research. In fact, scientists concluded that conservation is just as important for human well-being as financial security … ‘According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species,’ says lead author Joel Methorst.”

Sitting at the table over my breakfast, I can watch the birds across the yard, on the feeders, in the trees, shrubs and on the lawn. Of course, squirrels make up a lot of the activity out there, (did I mention my wife feeds them?) but we also have a resident bunny (or two?) that appears when the dog isn’t present. Sometimes I will add a little background music (to sooth my savage breast) while I watch, to complement the calm I feel from being in touch with nature.

Nairn continues, “According to the study authors, birds are some of the best indicators of biological diversity in any given area because they are usually seen or heard in their environments, especially in urban areas. However, more bird species were found near natural green spaces, forested areas and bodies of water … ‘Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all,’ says Methorst.”

“For every bit of darkness
There’s a little bit of light
For every bit of hatred
There’s a little bit of love
For every cloudy morning, there’s a midnight moon above”

“So don’t you forget
You must search ‘til you find the bluebird
You will find peace and contentment forever
If you will—”

“Be like I, hold your head up high
‘Til you see a ray of light and cheer
And so remember this, life is no abyss
Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness”

Additional Information:

Sandor Harmati, Bluebird of Happiness, 1934, words by Edward Heyman and additional lyrics by Harry Parr-Davies. “Bluebird of Hap

Carly Nairn, Study: Birds Are Linked to Happiness Levels, 12/08/20, EcoWatch

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