In the year 2020, there are many things competing for one’s attention. It’s the year of COVID-19, the year of a very contentious election, fires are seemingly burning everywhere in California. It may be hard to remember, or for some, to believe that birds are important. There is the thought that we should care more about people than those cute little brown birds; that money should be
spent making peoples lives better, roads smoother, housing more affordable and taxes less. Indeed, we have a moral obligation to care for our fellow human beings. So how can we show the
importance of birds for everyone, not just for birders? According to an Audubon article from April 2013, “If we want policymakers and the public to take conservation seriously, then perhaps we must offer credible research showing that healthy bird populations are essential to human welfare.”
The article goes on to offer a number of reasons that birds are more than important, they are essential. As I pointed out last month, birds are some of natures best ways to control insects. “Insect-eating birds protect apple orchards in the Netherlands and safeguard Missouri Ozark white oaks, whose lumbar is highly sought by furniture makers. And they reduce pest levels at organic wineries.” Don’t mess with my wine.
We are all familiar with the canary in a coal mine. Coal miners would carry these little sentinels into the mines with them to help detect dangerous levels of gases such as carbon monoxide. Today, scientists follow the health of Common Loons in New York State to better understand the impact of atmospheric mercury from coal-burning power plants and incinerators. As the birds are very territorial, have a life span of 20+ years and are at the top of the food web, scientists have been able to correlate their breeding success with mercury contamination providing “evidence for the need to stringently regulate mercury and acidic emissions on national and global scales.”
Birding and birders help support the economy spending roughly $40 billion annually by feeding birds, purchasing equipment and traveling…well, one of these days we will be able to do that.
Last, but no means least, one cannot discount the importance of birds on a more emotional level. People have always admired birds using them as adornment on the walls of caves, in temples and on the walls of your home and mine, no doubt. Beethoven quoted the cuckoo in his Symphony #6. Storks deliver us at birth and owls mourn our deaths.
Birds are an integral part of who we are and how we exist. It’s our job to make sure they remain.