Why Do Birds Matter?
From authors to ornithologists, avian enthusiasts share their thoughts.
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
All birds, of course, are miracles, and humans have known this for millennia. We have looked to birds as oracles. Our hearts soar on their wings and their songs. Even the tiniest bird can teach us that life is larger than humankind alone. --Sy Montgomery, Author, Birdology
Birds connect me to the rhythm of the natural world. Flocks of cedar waxwings announce winter in a way no calendar can. The meteorologist declares autumn's arrival, but I wait for goldfinch and junco to confirm it. Purple martin scouts arrive, chirping from the telephone wire, their oily feathers shine in the sun--spring is here, again. --Ben Jones, Director, Trinity River Audubon Center
When we save birds from large-scale threats we see that what's good for the birds is also good for us. This is true about agriculture, fishing, climate change. As we solve their problems we solve ours. This is about everyone's quality of life. --Gary Langham, National Audubon Science Director
"Why do birds matter?" is one of those questions like "What is love?" or "Why are we here?" or even "Is there a God?" Unanswerable, I think, by logic. One could cite facts like, birds eat lots of harmful insects, charm us at our feeders, or challenge us to learn their field marks, molts, and names both common and scientific. But perhaps the answer lies deeper. Since the beginning birds have lifted our eyes to the skies. They've shown us we're not gravity's slave, that flight is possible and limitless. It can hover and soar, dive and display, and take us from one end of the planet to the other in a single, impossible burst of energy and purpose. Inspiration is the gift birds have given us from the start. But now they give us a question as well. Like the canary in the mine, they hold the planet up to us like a mirror and ask: "Can you not see that if we pass away, soon you will as well?" That's a good question, and since birds pose it, they matter a lot. --Wes Craven, Hollywood director
Birds matter because I have a grandson. I want him to see his first rose-breasted grosbeak with me just like his Dad did. --Joe Francis, Former director, Wachiska Audubon Society
I'm reminded of the preacher's story: When the poor man spent his meager funds on bread and flowers he was asked, "Why waste your pennies on flowers?" The man replied, "The bread is to live. The flowers are why we live." We need birds and flowers to value something in ourselves beyond money. --Dan Greaney, Wintu Audubon Society
I think that birds are special creatures. To me they symbolize the ability to take off and go wherever they please without limit and land constraint. They can travel the world and go places where land walkers can't. I think they are the most liberated species due to their ability to fly. --Samnam Phin, Property manager, The Trustees of Reservations
Birds are the catalyst for taking me outdoors and shaping the way I live and think. If we can all share this appreciation of the natural world and its positive impact on our lifestyles, the planet will be a different place. --Richard Crossley, Birder, photographer, author of The Crossley ID Guide
Birds are important because they are a window that mirrors our own humanness. By observing bird behaviors and learning the details of their lives, we learn about ourselves and what it means to be both fully human and fully alive. --GrrlScientist, Blogger, evolutionary biologist, and ornithologist
Birds are everywhere and provide one of the most exciting ways to connect with the natural world. There are so many questions that emerge once we start looking. Why is the goldfinch at my feeder? Where did it come from? Where is it going? And everyone in the world can help answer these questions by taking part in citizen-science efforts like Christmas Bird Count and eBird. Bringing together millions of records from around the world is providing us with new insights and understanding and raising even more questions. --Chris Wood, eBird director
Birds have always been are our biological barometers. From the 'canary in the coal mine' to weather predictions, documentation of climate change, monitoring habitat health, urban noise, and the introduction of spring. Birds are 'man's next best friend.' --Carla Dove, Forensic ornithologist, Smithsonian Institute