Birds are amazing creatures. They are around us almost everywhere we go, in so many diverse places and in so many different sizes and forms. Their domain is vast, yet we easily associate with them in our own familiar backyard. This combination of close at hand and far-removed provides an opportunity to enjoy their immediate detail and appreciate their abundance.
This year, 2018, marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects more than 1,025 species from devastating human activities. In order to celebrate, National Geographic has partnered with the National Audubon Society, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to declare this entire year The Year of the Bird. National Geographic has kicked-off this observance with a well-crafted January issue of the National Geographic Magazine that features an inspiring essay by Jonathan Franzen titled, “Why Birds Matter.” His essay is paired with some remarkable avian portraits created by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore.
Considering why birds matter can be examined in terms of conservation. Protecting bird species and their habitats from large-scale threats associated with man’s activities is a valuable endeavor. They are worth protecting because they have an important role to play in our ecosystem. Many plants and trees depend on birds to spread their seeds. The Clark’s nutcracker is a good example of a seed disperser. Insect-eating birds also help to control pests. One case in point is the western bluebird, which has been effective in California vineyards in eating insect larvae and reducing disease affecting grape vines. What is good for the birds, as it turns out, is also good for us.
Birds also matter on a personal level. They play a role in our daily lives and our lifestyle. For me, birds are a catalyst for taking me outdoors, and that comes with unexpected rewards. They add flavor and fun in my appreciation for the natural world. I remember with pleasure watching barn swallows glide and swoop in the air finding insects to feed their young, and seeing the nestlings underneath a patio awning with mouths wide-open waiting tolerantly for their meal. This experience, like so many others involving birds, becomes striking highlights associated with my leisure time. Birds bring a sparkle to our daily routine.
In celebration of the Year of the Bird in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you are invited to share your personal experiences concerning Why do birds matter? in the moderated comment section below.
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