Birds are everywhere around us. They are colorful, noisy, and active during the day. his makes birds relativley easy to observe. In fact, every day almost all of us will see several different kinds of bird, even if we do not try.
Every year the environment receives more attention. Those of us involved with birds and birding know that our pasttime or profession played an important role in the modern environmental movement, starting with the original Audubon Society campaign to save herons and egrets in the early 1900s. A key event was the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's first Field Guide to the Birds in 1934. This book and its descendants have introduced many people to the joys of birdwatching. While Peterson's books provided the basis for looking at birds in their environment, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, initiated the era of activist environmentalism.
Birds provide an easily-accessible environmental indicator by which the quality of the environment can be monitored. Canaries were used many years ago in Welsh coal mines to monitor air quality. More recently, birds have provided warning signals of such environmental deterioration as the dangers of certain persistent pesticides, habitat loss, and fragmentation of remaining natural areas into small pieces. A child initiated into the world of birds is quick to discover other avenues of nature. From this broadening perspective, environmental consciousness is born.
Bird study has made important contributions to numerous other biological disciplines besides environmental studies. These include evolution and species formation; distribution and abundance of animals; study of animal social organizations; animal communication and behavior; determining how animals navigate during migration; the effect of hormones on nerve cells; the structure and function of the brain; and more.
Science aside, every birdwatcher or birder will go to great lengths to extol the joys of their pastime. Birding is a pastime that can be enjoyed at many levels in innumerable ways: the identification of a bird at one's backyard feeder, the challenge of a difficult field identification, or the pursuit of exotic species in far away locations. Birding is a pastime that a child can enjoy for many years.
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