PLYMOUTH, Minn. — Young people are getting in on a hobby you may associate with the older generation. Bird watching is soaring among the younger set. And you can thank the pandemic for that.
"This is the spot right here,” says Dan DeBaun as he shows us his ever-growing collection of bird feeders on his patio. It’s his happy place.
"It's funny, when I'm out here I can usually hear them and I interpret that as we want you to go back inside so we can have at it,” says Dan.
The 31-year-old might seem a few decades shy of a birdwatcher, but the hobby has really gained flight in the last few years, especially with the millennial and Gen Z set.
"It was mid-2020 for me. Like a lot of people, especially my age group, who have picked up the hobby looking for something to do during the thick of the pandemic,” he says.
“I bought the crummiest bird feeder. The cheapest thing you could get from Amazon for like nine bucks. It arrived to the apartment already broken, and I pieced it together with Scotch tape, and I put it up, and two weeks later birds started coming, and I've been hooked ever since,” He exclaims with a giant smile on his face.
If you think about it, it totally makes sense. An accidental hobby, born out of the pandemic, when nature was our only entertainment. And for a generation steeped in preserving our environment, the hobby just fits.
And how’s this for a birding bonus? It's good for you.
“What we're finding is that when you feed birds, it lowers your cortisol level. When you listen to bird calls it releases dopamine,” says Carol Chenault, Manager at All Seasons Wild Bird Store.
The folks at All Seasons Wild Bird store say people of all ages have been flocking to their stores eager to feed both the birds and their mental health. It's not just a feeling... it's science! A study out just this past fall found that listening to bird sounds improved mental well-being for up to eight hours after.
Dan says it's one of the reasons he's become such an advocate for the hobby –even writing a blog to encourage others to get involved.
“As somebody who is generally an anxious person, and has had anxiety for practically my whole life, it's been incredibly beneficial for me. It’s just really changed my world and my life in a really positive way,” says Dan.
And there's another reason young people are joining the birdwatching bandwagon, technology. There are apps that help you identify birds and log what you've seen and when.
“They've also made bird feeders with built-in webcams. They will, I kid you not, a bird will land there, and it will ping on your cell phone that we've identified as a cardinal is at your bird feeder, and you can take a picture of it,” explains DeBaun.
And that leads us to the most important part of birding for young folks, sharing. Yep, you can even find birders on TikTok. And why wouldn’t you want to share something that brings so much joy? A wholesome hobby the whole family can enjoy. Nature and nurture are intertwined.
“They've come to associate me as walking outside, okay there's going to be fresh food outside, we better go over there, and that makes me feel good,” says Dan.
Are you interested in getting started? Here are some resources for you.
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