For most of my life, I didn’t pay attention to birds.

Now, when someone asks why birds are so important to me, I sigh. I shake my head. It’s as if I’ve been asked to explain why I love my brothers. Yet the question is a fair one:

Why do birds matter?

My answer might start with just how many birds there are. If you could see every bird in the world, you’d see the whole world. Birds can be found in every corner of every ocean. They’re found in every kind of habitat.

Gray gulls raise their chicks in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Emperor penguins lay their eggs in Antarctica. You can find sparrows in New York City traffic lights. Swifts live in sea caves and vultures on Himalayan cliffs.

Long and flexible necks help American flamingos feed in shallow waters.