Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This One's For the Birds

Magnet # 233:  Atlantic Waterfowl

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

Grab you binoculars and head outside, folks - today is Bird Day! This is the oldest of all the days that are set aside to recognize to our feathered friends and dates all the way back to May 4 in 1894. It was then that Charles Almanzo Babcock, a Pennsylvanian school superintendent, introduced the observation. Thanks to his position, a large amount of school children were involved in the event, but adults also joined in activities that included conservation training and awareness. By 1901, Babcock had published Bird Day: How to Prepare For It, a guide telling of its history, offering suggestions of how to observe the day, and stressing the importance of protecting these often fragile animals. His effort paid off, and by 1910, Bird day had gained widespread attention - in fact, it was often combined with Arbor Day. It was an important part of the early American conservation movement, reminding people that these creatures need protection, that they're an important part of nature, and that we can all appreciate their presence.

Bird Day is not the only observance in May that's dedicated to fowl matters - International Migratory Bird Day is just days away, on the 8th.  This observance was started by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in 2006 to raise awareness of the challenges migratory birds face in their travels.  It's held on the second Saturday in May and this year's theme is "Save migratory birds in crisis - every species counts!"   Okay, that's a little long, but it's important to remind people how important saving these animals really is.  If we continue to put obstacles for them in their travels, more and more species will continue to die out.  Just since the 17th century, about 120 species of birds have been wiped out due to human activity and around 1,200 currently face extinction. The greatest harm humans can do to birds is taking away their habitats, but factors like overhunting, climate change, and introducing non-native species to their environment can also threaten them. And, of course, pollution can really destroy bird populations. With the huge oil spill currently threatening the Gulf Coast, it's terrible to think about just how many birds and other animals may die in the days to come.

So what can we do to help these animals on bird-themed days and the rest of the year? Well, you can make your backyard into an environment that's bird friendly but putting in bird feeders, bird baths, and perhaps even a birdhouse. If you plant berry-producing trees and shrubs, they can also be helpful to the birds. Of course, this will probably bring more birds to your home so you can enjoy watching them as your reward. But be careful about your windows - if they're too reflective, the birds may collide into them and even possibly die from their injuries. Any screens, awnings, or trees you can put around your windows should help. One bird friendly environment that's becoming more popular is a "green roof," that's filled with habitats and food. This can be particularly helpful to migratory birds. And if you let your cat outside, you may want to reconsider doing so. It's believed that outdoor cats can kill hundreds of thousands of wild birds each year, including blue jays, robins, cardinals, and even endangered birds. And even if they kill small mammals, that can deprive predator birds such as owls and hawks of their food supply. And it's not even good for the cat to go outside - outdoor cats have an average life span of about 5 years, while ones that stay inside can live up to 17 years - or more. So you can also help keep your cat around even longer, as well as birds - sounds like a good idea to me.  And, yes, just going outside to have a look at some birds, either alone or with friends, is also a perfectly fine way to observe either of these days.

Clearly, as we develop the world around us, we're creating even greater challenges for wild birds in their fight to stay alive. We can't stop progress, but we can take some steps to help them survive.  So try to keep them in mind and perhaps try and do a little something to help them out.  And for more information, stop by http://www.birdday.org/, the official site of International Migratory Bird Day.  Birds are an important part of our daily lives, eating up weed seeds, bugs and other pests, and sometimes even rotting materials like dead fish and garbage.  Of course they can, in turn, be an important food source, both for humans and other animals.  And they enrich our lives with their bright colors and pretty songs.  Really, it's in our own best interests to help these winged creatures keep on flying high.


  1. Greg Bingaman finally made it to your blog. You put a lot of work and effort into this site. Birds the word!

  2. Surprised you didn't go with a Star Wars theme today. May the 4th be with you. :-)

  3. Greg - I'd pretty much given up on you! But thanks for the visit, and all of the magnets.

    You want Star Wars? Just stick around til the end of the month and you should have your fill. But I will definitely keep that in mind for next year!