The spring issue of Audubon magazine says that 2018 has been designated as the year of the bird. So let’s celebrate birds today.
First, a bird alert. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the most important conservation laws in the world. It celebrates its 100th birthday this year. This law creates incentives for people to protect birds when humans industrialize a landscape. Birds are killed, for example, when they mistake open tar pits for ponds. One simple solution: to cover open tar pits with nets. Companies work with wildlife agencies to make power lines more visible and to install flashing lights on communication towers so birds don’t fly into them. MBTA has saved many birds from extinction including the Snowy Egret, the Sandhill Crane, and the Bald Eagle.
Audubon warns that the Department of Interior announced it would no longer hold industry responsible for bird deaths. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has introduced a bill that would “gut the MTBA.” Millions of Americans have signed a letter asking Congress to honor the MBTA. The magazine encourages you to contact your representatives and voice your opinion about this important issue. (I wrote to mine.)
Now some fun and interesting facts about birds.
1) There are 10,000 species of birds. They inhabit almost every place on earth from the frozen Antarctica to the humid rain forests of South America.
2) All birds and only birds have feathers. Feathers provide insulation, sunblock, waterproofing, camouflage, and reproductive success.
3) The largest bird is the ostrich. The ostrich stands 9 feet tall, weighs about 350 pounds, and can run 60 miles per hour. Its egg is the size of a cantaloupe. The smallest bird is the bee hummingbird. It weighs 1.6 grams, less than a penny. Its egg is the size of a pea.
4) The first bird domesticated by humans was the goose. In some places, geese serve as “watch dogs,” alerting their owners to visitors or to danger.
5) When ducks sleep in a group, those in the center sleep with both eyes closed, while those on the perimeter sleep with one eye open, to watch for predators.
7) Pigeons have been used for thousands of years to carry messages—especially vital military information. In ancient Greece, pigeons were also used to report the outcome of the Olympic Games to outlying districts!
8) Penguins are dark on top making it harder for predators to see them from above against the darker ocean water. They are white on the bottom making it harder from predators to see them from below. On land their color doesn’t matter too much because they have so few land predators.
9) Volunteer bird counters keep tabs on the bird populations all over the world. After hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, dedicated birders kept their long-standing tradition of counting birds at Christmas time. In one area, Fajardo, birders counted 82 species and a total of 1,934 individuals—lower than last year’s 97 species and 2,597 birds. Sometimes we don’t appreciate the impact of a natural disaster on wildlife.
10) Why are birds important? Here are just a few reasons: Birds pollinate, disperse seeds, scavenge carcasses, and control insects. But beyond that, birds nourish our spirits. They even inspired us to fly! As naturalist and author Sy Montgomery has said, birds remind us that “life is larger than humankind alone.”
Today, notice the birds…and give thanks to God for them.
What role do birds play in your spiritual life? Do you have any interesting bird stories that you would like to share with us?
One of my favorite birds is the Puffin, sometimes called “the clown of the bird world” because of the unusual and colorful markings on its face. My sister and niece supported Puffin conservation, another reason the bird is dear to me. Today’s video shows a little Puffin emerging from its shell. Hatching is hard work! The mother Puffin tries to help a little, but it’s up to the baby bird to get out of its shell. Notice, the baby enters the world hungry! I hope you enjoy this “song.”
PS: Sunday morning CBS news ran a story called “A Children’s Puffin Rescue Squad” by Steve Hartman. It tells of some children on Heimaey Island in Iceland who are helping to rescue endangered young Puffins. You can read the article or watch the video by googling CBS news and the title of the story. I found it fascinating and uplifting!
Is there anything you’d like to say about birds, this reflection, or the video?