Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why We Love and Protect Birds

While HOBAS strives to protect and bring about awareness of all animal groups it is never far from our minds that birds are the heart and soul of our existence.      

Why are birds so important to us? To start, they are indicator species, meaning they are an essential and critical component of a healthy, diverse natural community.  In laymen’s terms, they let us know that things are all right in our ecosystems. In addition, birds are also keystone species. Lose a keystone species, and the ecosystem it once existed in would be dramatically different, or could even possibly cease to exist.

They also provide us with free ecological services by consuming weed plants, rodent pests and insects. Birds pollinate and disseminate seeds and some act as nature’s sanitation workers by scavenging carrion.

Birds are also economic goldmines. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 70 million birdwatchers spend over $25 billion per year feeding, watching and traveling to enjoy birds in the US.  That is a huge contribution to our economy!

These are all some pretty good reasons why birds are considered important to humans.  But there are more profound reasons why birds matter to us and it has nothing to do with their “dollar” value. Simply put, it’s how they make us feel. Their remarkable songs put the greatest composers to shame and cause our hearts to sing right along with their glorious melodies. Their beauty ranges from the understated plumage of shorebirds, wrens and gadwalls to the astonishing colors of painted buntings, Blackburnian warblers, wood ducks and scarlet tanagers.

We are impressed and humbled by their athleticism and awe-inspiring feats. Migrating birds travel staggering distances annually and navigate the same course, year after year, using tools such as landmarks, the sun, stars and the earth’s magnetic field. Many are long-distance athletes, traveling up to tens of thousands of miles during these annual journeys.

Birds are talented architects and entertaining performers during breeding season. Some can survive in the harshest climates and in the most barren of habitats. Some spend their lives in flight, only coming to land when it is time to produce young. Some kill with deadly precision while other can fly underwater. Birds are tough, they are fascinating and they endlessly amaze us with their survival skills and athletic abilities.

To me, the most important role birds play is how they can connect us, no matter where we are, to the natural world in the blink of an eye.  We can be standing at the kitchen counter, a store front on a busy street, the top floor of a high rise building, or even in an idling car at a stoplight, and the appearance of a bird reminds us immediately that there is another, more beautiful place beyond the day we are experiencing. Birds bring nature to us, no matter where we are, no matter how harried or hurried our day.  This is a gift to our souls, and a priceless one at that.

This is why birds matter and why we should be doing all we can to protect them.

Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon is proud to announce that on March 8, 2016 we will be partnering with the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington to host a very special Long Island screening of The Messenger, a documentary about the importance of birds and the threats they face.  

We are thrilled to be able to bring the message about the importance of birds, and what it would mean to lose them, to a broader audience at the Centre.  While the details have not been ironed out yet, we hope to have a Q&A panel discussion after the film to discuss what you, the audience member, can do to help birds by your own actions.  This short segment will be immediately followed by a reception in the Sky Room.  Please keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for more details, as well as ticket prices, as we get closer to the date.  Sign up for our email updates also. 

Please join us tonight for this very special evening.  I hope to see you there!

Film Reviews:

“The Messenger is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it means to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them. Humans once believed that birds could carry messages, their presence was meaningful. They have helped predict the change of seasons, the coming of storms and the rise of toxins in the food chain. Once again they have something to tell us, and the message is not a comfortable one…The film ultimately is about what the birds have to tell us about the state of our planet and our shared future.”

“The Messenger is riveting, emotionally engaging, and visually extravagant from the first frame to the last. Up-to-the-minute facts on how birds communicate about environmental change are interwoven with gripping stories about the perils faced every year by these amazing world travelers. This is a must-see movie for anybody who values the natural world or wonders about its relationship to humans.”
John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Without a doubt, The Messenger is the most outstanding film I’ve seen on birds. The fact that it is so strongly science-based, so emotive in its pitch, so beautiful in its design it captivates me and everyone who has had a chance to see it.”
Steven Price
President, Bird Studies Canada

Thank you to Lloyd Spitalnik, Sam Janazzo and the author for photos