The Birds Are Not on Lockdown, and More People Are Watching Them


The adult male scarlet tanager is a medium-size songbird with glaring crimson feathers and jet-black wings.

It can be hard to spot, because the species tends to forage among the upper branches of tall trees. But it does come down to earth, and sometimes can be caught hanging out with pigeons outside of the Freeport Wild Bird Supply store in Maine.

Business is booming at his supply store, and he’s seeing younger customers than usual. But it’s not the scarlet tanager that has gotten so many people interested in birds in recent months. It’s the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is definitely a craving for engagement with nature, especially considering how limited our ability to move is right now,” Mr. Lovitch said.

For Layla Adanero, who was working as a business analyst in Manhattan until she was furloughed in April, bird-watching has been a respite from the faster-paced life she left behind when she moved back home to London.

Now the chirps and coos in her backyard, once ignored as background noise, have become clues to understanding an entire ecosystem.

“It’s quite meditative to watch another life form go about its day,” said Ms. Adanero, 23. “It’s like another way of practicing mindfulness.”

There’s something symbolic about watching the birds fly while she is in lockdown, Ms. Adanero said: “They represent the ultimate freedom of movement.”

Corina Newsome, 27, an avian expert and graduate student of biology at Georgia Southern University, said the coronavirus lockdowns coincided with spring migration — the perfect time for new birders to look to the sky.

“I think it will end up making us better stewards of our natural space, as well as give us peace and calm to see that even though our rhythm is interrupted, there is a larger rhythm that continues to go on,” Ms. Newsome said.

During the lockdowns, she has been fielding more birding questions on social media from newbies, amateurs and parents introducing the pastime to their children.

“He’s at that age now where he can really get sucked into the screen,” Ms. Bradshaw said. “So I was like, ‘Let’s go bird-watching.’ Both of my big kids really got into it, and even the baby now walks around outside looking at the sky saying: ‘Bird! Bird!’”

Some birds are drawn to the Bradshaws’ area because they live close to the Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. But birding is a hobby that city dwellers, rural residents or suburbanites anywhere can try.

“It’s been used by researchers all over the world in ways that we never predicted,” said Mr. Iliff, the project leader from the lab.

It will require patience. But she has cultivated a lot of that in lockdown, with bird-watching as one of her favorite ways to pass the time.

“If you’re staying at home, especially in confinement, and you want to see some nature,” she said, “you can just open your window.”



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