Challenging Landscape

Birds aren’t furry and cuddly. But in many ways, they’re more similar to us than mammals are. They build homes and raise families in them. Sometake long winter vacations in warm places.

There is one ability that humans have that birds do not. Birds cannot control their environment. They have only their instincts to help them solve problems.

In soaring flight, the Malayan crested serpent eagle holds its broad wings in a shallow "V" shape. This gives it speed.

Birds’ instincts have served them well. They’ve been here 150 million years longer than humans. But now humans are changing the planet. Its surface. Its climate. Its oceans. These changes are coming too quickly for many birds to adapt.

The future of most bird species depends on our willingness to preserve them. Are they valuable enough for us to make the effort?

Many birds have eyes on the sides of their heads. This allows them to see all around. That’s useful in finding prey and spotting predators.

The bare-faced go-away-bird was
given its funny name for its featherless face.
But it’s the tall, feathered plume on the top of its head that attracts the most attention.

The Value of Birds

It might depend on how we measure value. We value some things because they are useful. Certainly, many types of birds are valuable to us because we eat them. Some birds are valuable because they eat insects and rodents. Many birds pollinate plants and spread seeds. I believe one reason that wild birds matter is that they are our last, best connection to the natural world.

The rainbow bunting’s bright colors attract mates.

A few years ago, I was in a forest in northeast India. Suddenly, I heard and then felt in my chest, a deep whooshing. It was the wingbeats of a pair of great hornbills. The hornbills were flying to a tree with fruit. They had massive, yellow bills and white legs. As they climbed around in the tree, I cried out with joy. It was joy at the sheer presence of the great birds.

Birds are always among us. Yet, their indifference to us serves as a reminder. We’re not the measure of all things. In every corner of the globe, birds are an important part of our world.