2018 is the Year of the Bird

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Sher­rie Ver­sluis

They were the in­spi­ra­tion of flight, gave us the gift of mu­sic, and make a spring day that much bet­ter. Truly our feath­ered friends and one of na­ture's most beau­ti­ful trea­sures, they are birds. Their pres­ence in the skies, the trees, our lakes and forests make these places com­plete. Birds add so much to our nat­u­ral world that most of us take them for granted and wouldn't re­al­ize the im­pact they have on our daily lives un­til they were gone. This is some­thing all sci­en­tists, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, na­ture lovers and all re­lated or­ga­ni­za­tions never want to see hap­pen so the year 2018 has been de­clared the Year of the Bird.

The main or­ga­ni­za­tions that are head­ing this plight are the Na­tional Geo­graphic So­ci­ety, Cor­nell Lab of Or­nithol­ogy, Na­tional Audubon So­ci­ety, and Bird Life In­ter­na­tional along with over 100 other or­ga­ni­za­tions and hope­fully YOU! This year-long cel­e­bra­tion of birds starts with the fact that 2018 is the 100th an­niver­sary of the Mi­gra­tory Bird Treaty Act. This fed­eral law be­tween the U.S. and Great Bri­tain (act­ing on be­half of Canada), pro­tects over 800 species of birds from hunt­ing, cap­tur­ing, killing or sell­ing. This in­cludes the pos­ses­sion of feath­ers, eggs, and nests and does not dis­crimi- nate be­tween live and dead birds. This law has saved and con­tin­ues to save the lives of many birds but the re­al­ity is that many new threats have come up over the years and more aware­ness, ed­u­ca­tion, and pro­tec­tion are needed.

Sadly, the three most re­cent con­trib­u­tors to the de­cline of birds through­out the world are all hu­man caused: free-roam­ing cats, win­dow col­li­sions, and chem­i­cals used in agri­cul­tural and sub­ur­ban sit­u­a­tions. Other fac­tors such as habi­tat loss, pol­lu­tion, and de­for­esta­tion are also neg­a­tively af­fect­ing many species of birds as well as in­creas­ing the rate of cli­mate change. Did you know the im­pact just mow­ing your lawn has on the en­vi­ron­ment? A typ­i­cal 3.5 horse­power gas lawn­mower emits nearly 48 kilo­grams of green­house gas per sea­son. In fact, one hour of us­age of a lawn­mower is like driv­ing a new, ef­fi­cient car 550 kms or 40 new ve­hi­cles sit­ting idling for one hour. It is es­ti­mated that 56 mil­lion peo­ple in North Amer­ica mow their lawns each week­end us­ing 800 mil­lion gal­lons of gas per year and pro­duc­ing tons and tons of air pol­lu­tants. You can see how the im­pact of such a sim­ple act can go on and on in dam­ag­ing our en­vi­ron­ment and the crea­tures that live within it in­clud­ing us!

You can join in on the Year of the Bird by sign­ing up on the of­fi­cial site at www.na­tion­al­geo­graphic.org/projects/ year-of-the-bird/. Each month they will send you one sim­ple ac­tion you can take to make a dif­fer­ence for birds and for the whole planet. They will also fea­ture dif­fer­ent birds each month, amaz­ing pho­tog­ra­phy of birds, and in­for­ma­tion that can help you make bet­ter de­ci­sions on your daily life ac­tions. We don't start each day in­tend­ing to do things that harm the earth but we just may not know the im­pact of our ac­tions. By sign­ing up you will get tips to help you make bet­ter de­ci­sions and how re­ward­ing is that to find a sim­ple change that can ben­e­fit us all!

The Na­tional Audubon So­ci­ety asked many avian en­thu­si­asts why birds mat­ter. Here were some of my favourite an­swers.

• Birds mat­ter be­cause they give us wings. And be­cause if we save the birds, we will save the world. Pep­per Trail, USFWS foren­sic or­nithol­o­gist

• With­out birds, na­ture would lose her voice and the planet its most en­gag­ing en­voys. Birds mat­ter pre­cisely be­cause they mat­ter to us. En­vi­ron­ment is a con­cept. Na­ture a la­bel. Birds are real, el­e­ments that live within our sen­sory plane. They spread their wings

and bridge the gap be­tween our world and the nat­u­ral world. Pete Dunne, Au­thor, di­rec­tor Cape May Bird Ob­ser­va­tory

• Birds add beauty to our lives, in­ter­est­ing be­hav­ior to ob­serve, and are prime in­di­ca­tors of how well we are tak­ing care of our planet. Donna McCarty, Bir­dathon chair, Amos W. But­ler Audubon So­ci­ety

• Birds mat­ter be­cause they help peo­ple con­nect with na­ture, which of­ten leads to car­ing enough about the en­vi­ron­ment to do some­thing to pro­tect it. Phyl­lis Ke­g­ley, Pro­gram and pub­lic­ity chair, North­ern Ari­zona Audubon So­ci­ety

• Birds mat­ter be­cause they are a ba­sic, in­te­gral part of the earth's ecosys­tem. As in any sys­tem, the loss of one part will ul­ti­mately cause the down­fall of the whole. Jean Ashby, Ed­u­ca­tion co-chair, Sk­agit Audubon

And here is my rea­son as to why birds mat­ter. Birds pol­li­nate the flow­ers and the

trees. I love to smell flow­ers and hug trees. Bird songs in ev­ery sea­son brighten my day and make me smile. Smiles are con­ta­gious and make the world a hap­pier place. Watch­ing birds f ly, whether it's the brisk flight of a goose, the un­du­lated flight of a finch, or the soar­ing of an ea­gle, re­minds me of free­dom and fills me with grat­i­tude to be alive and free in a beau­ti­ful coun­try.

Birds are mes­sen­gers. They show up at some of the most im­por­tant mo­ments in our lives as sym­bols of love or as a spir­i­tual con­nec­tion, such as the owl that landed on a tree above the grave of a woman be­ing buried as her friends and fam­ily watched. Known as the ' owl lady' she had spent her life col­lect­ing and lov­ing owls. Was it her sign to let them know she was okay? Or such as the Eastern blue­bird that showed up out­side a woman's win­dow singing loudly to her on the day of her hus­band's fu­neral. It was the one bird to­gether they had searched for many a sea­son, but never found. Was it her hus­band's way of mak­ing sure his wife fi­nally saw that blue­bird?

I hear so many amaz­ing sto­ries of how birds per­son­ally touch peo­ple’s lives. The sym­bol­ism of birds is nev­erend­ing, their beauty-end­less, and their im­por­tance to our en­vi­ron­ment as our pol­li­na­tors, seed planters and in­sect con­trollers is price­less. Birds re­ally do mat­ter.

Sher­rie Ver­sluis owns the Pre­ferred Perch and is an avid birder.

Many bird species are will­ing to nest in bird houses.

Fruit and berry-bear­ing bushes pro­vide nat­u­ral food sources dur­ing win­ter months.

A bird bath pro­vides a source for drink­ing and bathing wa­ter for birds.

Bird feed­ers are greatly ap­pre­ci­ated dur­ing the colder months.

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