2018 is the Year of the Bird
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 discriminate 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 fly, 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.