2018: The Year of the Bird

by Melannie Svoboda SND on April 30, 2018

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.

6) Chickens have 200 distinct noises they use to communicate. Chickens also have the honor of being the closet living relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen April 30, 2018 at 5:20 am

Good Morning Sr. Melannie!

We have a blue jay building its nest in the eaves of our front porch. A sure sign that Spring is coming even though it snowed yesterday!

Kathleen

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Weston Barwise April 30, 2018 at 5:29 am

The bird is all that you have listed above, but like the frog, is also a very important biological indicator of the health of the environment.

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Judy April 30, 2018 at 5:58 am

Thanks so much!

Blessings!
Sister Judy

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Kathy April 30, 2018 at 7:35 am

Thanks Sr. Melannie,

When my daughter was younger (about 13) she wanted a pet bird, and long story short, we ended up adopting a cockatiel from the parents of a priest friend. The parents were elderly and could no longer care for the bird, so my daughter got her wish! She has always been an art lover, and named the bird Monet. We had Monet for several years, and I have fond memories of those days.

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Carol L April 30, 2018 at 8:27 am

Good Morning, Sr Melanie!
We have numerous bird feeders in our back yard and have attracted many birds. There are several species of finches, wrens, doves, flickers, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, chicadees, junkcos, etc. We even have a Cooper’s Hawk who occasionally comes to feast on one of our well fed birds! I have been following an eagle pair at Berry College eagle nest cam 1 who are raising a lone eaglet which hatched on Valentines Day. It will be fledging (leaving the nest) within the next 2 weeks. A number of my coworkers are watching this sometimes bloody but sacred privilege of seeing God’s creativity unfold. Check it out! Thank you for allowing God to express His creativity through you, Sr Melannie! Blessings to all!!

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Sunnie Poplar April 30, 2018 at 8:37 am

On recent trip to Australia, my daughter and I were delighted to find 4 beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets on our little deck off our kitchen that came right to me and ate bagel bits right out of my hand. I felt it was my husband, mother, son and sister all sending us a message from heaven that they were with us. My daughter was even able to capture the moment on her camera.

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Sr. Rene Weeks April 30, 2018 at 9:13 am

Just wanted to say thank you for this post and to add that some swans, such as the one pictured here, are actually invaders into North America and their presence drives out more native species. So wildlife conservationists destroy their nests and eggs to keep them from reproducing.
Up with native species!

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Sharon Tressel April 30, 2018 at 10:04 am

God is so awesome! So are you. Thank you for all that you share!

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Ryan April 30, 2018 at 10:27 am

Good morning! Thank you for this spirit lifting blog. As I watched the arduous hatching process, my heart was filled with compassion for all of us who are constantly seeking to evolve and grow. I thought about how often I am the baby puffin who recognizes it is time to grow, to break out of an old shell of self and become a new creation – the hard and sometimes painful work of that. It reminded me in a powerful was to give myself tender love and compassion, as one would that baby bird, and to also remember that others are also that baby bird, who needs patient love and support to thrive, and that we all have the opportunity, every day, to be the Mama bird, who helped her struggling chick, just a little bit here and there, to break out of its shell into a new life. ++❤️

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carol elsholz April 30, 2018 at 11:12 am

Thanks for beautiful thoughts of birds. Years ago at Our Lady of Lourdes school in Chicago, Sr. M. Viola, BVM came into our first grade classroom to help the children become aware of birds. Though we were in the thick of the city the children became bird watchers and found brown creepers, robins, sparrows, blue jays, along with the Rock Doves of Africa (pigeons) who were in abundance! I believe it has changed our awareness of nature and beauty–to this very day.

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Ginger Haug April 30, 2018 at 11:27 am

A couple of summers ago I was picking raspberries in our yard, lost my balance and fell. There was nothing to help me get up. so I just got comfortable there in the sun, and decided to use the 3 hours until my husband got home basking in the beautiful day, and the sun and catching up on my prayers. I heard a funny noise and looked up to see a hummingbird just inches above my head, checking me out closely. She came back 3 times to see if I was still there. I believe she was an emissary from our Lord looking after me. Hummingbirds are my totem now!

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Shirley April 30, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Thank you Sister Melanie for sharing this. I Love my birds. Had my first hummingbird of this seadon at my feeder yesterday and my first Oriole today. Put grape jelly and a half of an orange out for the Orioles, so they should be happy too. Again thanks for sharing.

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Maryann April 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm

What an uplifting blog. Thank you, Sr. Melannie! I appreciate Sy Montgomery’s quote that, “Birds remind us that life is larger than humankind alone.” Here in North Carolina, we’ve been blessed with an abundance of birds this spring. Goldfinches, robins, chickadees, wrens, cardinals, and even a downy woodpecker all mingle together at the bird bath and feeders in my backyard. Thank goodness the Audubon Society produces so many varieties of bird food, as each they each have their favorite snacks. I’m partial to the cardinals, and hope there is truth in the saying, “Cardinals appear when angels are near.”

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Susan April 30, 2018 at 1:56 pm

The yellow finches are starting to nest in Wisconsin. They will use long dog hair in their nests. After I brush our “golden” Murphy, I put his hair in a empty suet cage for them to take out and make soft beds for their young.

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Barbara April 30, 2018 at 5:12 pm

I can only say birds have been such a part of my life and I consider them to be angels. Oftentimes when having a problem I look up and see wonderful birds flying overhead. I’ve been a bird watcher and bird lover for 30 years and I do think they are God’s angels in disguise.

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Sr. Carolyn Pozarich April 30, 2018 at 5:16 pm

I wanted to say that I experience God’s love and presence when I see an especially beautiful bird or see one when I didn’t expect it.
How blessed we are to have birds and how great God is to visit us that way!

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Suzanne Sayer April 30, 2018 at 5:30 pm

I saw the CBS story on the children in Iceland. It is inspiring—families working together to save the puffins. Thanks for all these interesting facts. I’ll be writing my congressmen!

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Sue April 30, 2018 at 7:38 pm

I had to smile at #4
I don’t know if any of your readers saw on YouTube, the teenager golfing, and was attack by a goose. It’s quite humorous. Lesson learned.
Don’t ever get too close to the nest !! 🙂
Love your blog….

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Ron May 2, 2018 at 10:28 am

We are in the midst of moving with all our “stuff”. I have been admiring the swallows who have just returned from over a thousand mile migration with zero “stuff”,

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