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LETTER: Birds a harbinger of the threats facing our planet

We live in Colwood, in the heart of unprecedented development, near a remnant bit of forest that still supports at least some wildlife. Even the occasional bear or cougar passes through in search of a place to call home.

But, mostly, the nearby trees contain birds: big birds of prey – eagles, hawks, and turkey vultures, along with diminutive kinglets, inconspicuous brown creepers, and petite Pacific wrens.

Some days this precious patch of forest is alive with the delightful drilling of noisy woodpeckers, flighty chestnut-backed chickadees, and showy juncos sporting tail feathers that remind me of cheerleader skirts (and lift my spirits).

Watching birds we can learn to be good neighbours and mindful stewards; to cultivate what Wendell Berry calls “the wisdom that comes from unceasing attention and practice.”

Imagine a nation of devoted bird watchers – truly watching, (not just counting to see how many species we can identify), to celebrate birds and care for them.

The more we listen and observe, the more we will see what birds need to thrive – a safe home, clean water, a secure food supply, a stable climate, a bit of wildness, and community. Just like us.

All life on Earth is facing incredible challenges as our collective life support systems collapse under the weight of a global economy based on endless extraction and exploitation.

More than 1,500 bird species are at risk of extinction. Are wild birds our ‘canary in the coal mine’?

Like us, they are threatened by global warming, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and pesticides. (Also, unlike us, cats and dogs.)

The solution? Save forests. Protect local natural areas, wetlands, streams, creeks, and rivers. Plant and care for trees, shrubs and flowers. Put up birdhouses and feeders. Add water features. Leave some grass unmowed. Stop using pesticides. Turn neighbourhood boulevards into habitat hot spots with thoughtful plantings. (And keep our cats indoors and our dogs leashed!)

Birds symbolize peace, and hope; two things we desperately need right now.

We can teach our children about birds. And our children can teach us to care.

Karyn Woodland

Colwood

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