Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Nature and Nurture

Birdwatching and medicine: stories of curiosity and wonder

BMJ 2023; 383 doi: (Published 12 December 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:p2757
  1. Maria B Antony, medical student
  1. University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, CT, USA
  1. Correspondence to: M B Antony antony{at}

Parallels in repeated observation of natural phenomena bring connection and meaning for Maria B Antony

Birdwatching was my lifeline during medical training, a way to avoid the burnout that afflicts so many healthcare workers today, as they grapple with the weight of administrative loads and clinical obilgations.1,2 Watching peregrine falcons nest from the large windows of a Connecticut hospital was my therapeutic diversion. Looking outside provided a pause for reflection, a chance to recalibrate. Birding connects us with the rhythm of the seasons and makes apparent the constancy and change in our shared ecosystem.

Birding is growing in popularity, including among healthcare providers.3 Cornell University’s eBird platform holds sightings from over 820 000 eBirders worldwide, with 225 million observations submitted in 2022 alone.4 Birdwatching shares with medicine the art of searching, finding, and identifying. Expertise grows with exposure; perception is sharpened through repeated observations and continuous learning.

In the western United States, purple, house, and Cassin’s finches initially seem indistinguishable, sharing a wine coloured crown. Yet repeated observation reveals nuance—deeper purple smudges on the purple finch’s flanks, the slightly larger head and subtle brown nape of Cassin’s finch. Human curiosity, aided by pattern recognition, artful gestalt, and honed skill, drive us to organise the world. Narratives of using our senses to identify or diagnose run deep through the annals of scientific history.

Accurate anatomy

A Renaissance …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription