Why Do Birds Matter?

Why Do Birds Matter?

From authors to ornithologists, avian enthusiasts share their thoughts.

By The Audubon Editors
Published: March-April 2013

For our March-April 2013 issue, we asked a variety of avian enthusiasts why birds matter. We were thrilled with the responses, which ranged from poetic to practical, and personal to global. Hollywood director Wes Craven gave his two cents, as did field guide author David Sibley, activist Bill McKibben, authors Barbara Kingsolver and Terry Tempest Williams, and so many more--including Audubon staff and members from around the country. We want to hear from you, too, so join the conversation in the comments section.

Birds make any place a chance for discovery, they make a garden seem wild, they are a little bit of wilderness coming into a city park, and for a bird watcher every walk is filled with anticipation. What feathered jewel might drop out of the sky next? --David Sibley, Author

Birds are important because they keep systems in balance: they pollinate plants, disperse seeds, scavenge carcasses and recycle nutrients back into the earth. But they also feed our spirits, marking for us the passage of the seasons, moving us to create art and poetry, inspiring us to flight and reminding us that we are not only on, but of, this earth. --Melanie Driscoll, Director of bird conservation for the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Flyway

The sheer ubiquity of birds makes them almost unavoidable. Birds are the always-present possibility of an awakening to the natural world that too many people have not yet experienced. --Corey Finger, Blogger, 10,000 Birds

Conjuring a world without birds is a thing I don't dare imagine, like the death of a child. Their fate is our own. --Joel Sartore, Photographer

Birds are wherever we are. They are our companions. Birds are mediators between heaven and earth. --Terry Tempest Williams, Author, When Women Were Birds

To abuse, to waste, to overuse--that's immorality. For me, it's very much a question of doing the right thing. And I wake up every morning and listen to the birds and take their song to heart and go back and sing for them. --Brian Rutledge, Vice President Rocky Mountain Region

Why do birds matter? It's a funny question. Imagine asking a cardinal, "Why do humans matter?" He would sing if he could, from the top of a telephone pole, "They don't! Not at all! Look at me!" Every species basically thinks we're the real one, and all others are food or set decoration. If you could step back and register all our noise at once, you might get a glimpse of the real deal: life on earth. --Barbara Kingsolver, Author, Flight Behavior

Birds represent a link to both our natural environment and to the possibility of freedom to soar without boundaries. --Rue Mapp, Founder, Outdoor Afro

Birds remind us that there are angels. --Jane Alexander, Actress

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

Great fiction is often praised for evoking a strong 'sense of place.' Birds do the same. In my own backyard, watching the types and rhythms of birds each day and each season heightens my appreciation for the subtler workings of the landscape. And when confronted by a seemingly alien place, say a desert or mountain tundra, the birds carry me from confusion to understanding. Seeing the world through the eyes of birds gives me a sense of place like no other. --Chris Canfield, Audubon's Mississippi Flyway Lead

In an age when we experience so much of our world through glass--screens, windows, windshields--birds are a vital connection to the wild. They reach across any barrier, flitting, surprising, and dazzling, always there to refresh my sense of wonder. --Thor Hanson, Author, Feathers, The Evolution of a Natural Miracle

Birds matter not least because amazing migrations remind us what an interconnected web we live in, from pole to pole. --Bill McKibben, Author, environmental advocate

Magazine Category


Birds are nature's way of

Birds are nature's way of creeping in through closed doors and windows to beckon, remind you, reassure you. To say, "I'm still here".

Why Birds Matter

If you are fortunate enough to have a moment to be still and be in nature, you may be graced with the presence of a bird. There's but a brief window of opportunity for you to get close enough to view it's colors before it's gone.
Birds are part of the things that we can rarely own or touch. There's mystery in that, and who doesn't love a good mystery?


Birds hellps to show how life could be simple, beautiful and perfect.
Each simple song of a bird change our perception, our feelings, our day.
A bird would be able to change the way of life of the human being.
Just stop, look and listen to the birds.

Why Birds Matter

Birds are remarkable with their distinctive personalities, intelligence, and fierce protectiveness of their young. I love to watch them interact in my yard and in the field; sometimes they squabble but more often they go about their business in harmonious peace always with an eye to the predator. Watching them hover and swoop, zooming like a rocket to places high and beyond fills me with joy, amazement and wonder. My life is happily tied to theirs.

why birds matter

Birds are a joy to watch in my garden, they add joy to my day and all people like them if not love. They are great pollenators and planters too.

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