“If you take care of birds, you take care of most of the environmental problems in the world.” – Thomas Lovejoy, Biologist and Godfather of Biodiversity
2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the U.S.’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) – one of the oldest and most pivotal pieces of wildlife conservation legislation. This law was enacted in response to the near-extinction of more than a few bird species that were often hunted for sport, food, or for their feathers.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), the MBTA “makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.”
In recognition of this centennial and the millions of birds that have been protected by the MBTA, Audubon, National Geographic, BirdLife International and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology officially deemed 2018 the Year of the Bird. This yearlong celebration brought together conservationists and nature lovers around the globe as they joined forces and committed to protecting birds for the next hundred years.
During 2018, each month was matched with a call to action that would support building a better world for birds (#birdyourworld). From participating in Global Big Day and other bird counts, to planting native plants to committing to reduce your plastic waste, the year was fully dedicated to inciting change and raising awareness for the continued conservation of birds.
Although, officially, the Year of the Bird has come to an end, our efforts to safeguard our feathery friends must go on, and here is why…
Birds provide balance in their environment as they are key contributors to ecosystem services such as pollination, seed dispersal, scavenging, and the recycling of nutrients back into the earth. Ecologists also use birds as a tool for measuring ecosystem success as they are sensitive to habitat change and good indicators of ecosystem health.
Additionally, birds support the economy. Bird lovers in the United States make up a large population that spend over $40 billion annually to feed birds, purchase equipment (bird baths, feeders, binoculars, etc.), and travel in pursuit of bird watching.
Not to mention a recent study by the British Trust for Ornithology, the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland that suggests birdwatching and other exposure to nature can improve your mental health. Now, that is something to tweet about (pun intended)!
To date, we have the 100-year-old MBTA to thank for the preservation of numerous bird species, including the wood duck, snowy egret, and sandhill crane. Still, many other species of birds protected under the MBTA are listed as either threatened, endangered or as birds of conservation concern. Habitat loss and degradation, collision with man-made structures, and landscape alterations from a changing climate are some of the most ubiquitous threats to birds. Mitigating these impacts demands a coordinated effort between government, industry, conservation organizations, and the public. Many partnerships and initiatives are in place through the USFWS Migratory Bird Program working on such collaborations at the regional, national and international level.
By protecting the birds, we are safeguarding the Earth’s biodiversity and preserving its natural heritage.
For information on how you can help migratory birds: http://blog.cwf-fcf.org/index.php/en/migratory-bird-day-2017/ .
Help protect the Migratory Bird Treaty Act here: https://www.nrdc.org/protect-migratory-bird-treaty-act
Did you know 2018 was declared the Year of the Bird?
In what ways are you working to #birdyourworld?