Other Animals
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Let’s take a moment to reflect on birds today. (Why, specifically, today? More on that in a bit!) Birds are everywhere. Their chirps and flutters are part of the fabric of our environment, so much so that it’s sometimes easy to take them for granted. Some people find birds to be annoying at times, i.e. a crow’s cawing (it might be a young crow asking for food; young crows look much like adults!), or they might not appreciate the chirping symphonies that greet the sunrise if it comes before the alarm clock sounds. But, make no mistake, birds do much more for us than we do for them, and, sadly, wild bird populations are on a continued decline.

If you Google “Why birds are important” or “Why we need birds,” etc. you’ll get a sense of why birds hold a special and vital place in the world we share. Birds transport seeds (via their droppings) and, by doing so, keep forests and ecosystems healthy. They keep insects in check, they pollinate plants, and so much more.

Bird Day

May 4 is “Bird Day” and is credited as being the oldest avian holiday. Let it be a reminder to take a moment to be in awe and appreciative of the birds around us, and learn of ways to help our local wild bird populations.

Charles Almanzo Babcock, a nineteenth-century superintendent of schools in Oil City, PA, appreciated the value of birds when he established “Bird Day” in 1894 for his students. It was the first holiday in the United States dedicated to the celebration of birds and takes place every May 4.

Carolina Parakeet
The last verified Carolina parakeet died in February 1918 in the Cincinnati Zoo. Here is a Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis ) on public display at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Photo by James St. John

Sadly, during Babcock’s lifetime, two well-known species endemic to North America would go extinct. According to the National Audubon Society, the last known wild Carolina parakeet was killed in Okeechobee County, Florida, in 1904, and the last captive Carolina parakeet died at the Cincinnati Zoo on February 21, 1918. The last known Passenger pigeon, named Martha, also at the Cincinnati Zoo, passed away in September 1914. She was thought to be 29 years old.

taxidermied passenger pigeon in museum display
Passenger pigeon specimen at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Photo by Tim Evanson, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

There are other bird holidays throughout the year across the globe, such as “World Migratory Bird Day,” coming up on the second Saturday in May in the U.S. and Canada, so by no means should our celebration of birds stop on May 4.

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