National Bird Day Op Ed - by Sharon St. Joan of Best Friends Animal Society published in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Another View: The birds are singing this morning; it's their day
Sharon St. Joan
KANAB -- Jan. 5 of every year has been designated as National Bird Day.
Most of us appreciate the cheerful song of robins in the spring, or the comical nature of companion parrots. But how often do we pause to consider what the life of birds is really like?
Do wild birds suffer from the loss of their habitat? Do parrots suffer from neglect? National Bird Day was created to give us time to reflect and to learn about the birds around us.
Let's take the example of Sydney, a companion parrot. An umbrella *censored*atoo, Sydney lived for two years with his person in California. He loved her, and she loved him. Naturally, he was a little jealous when other people intruded on their friendship. He greeted all guests and acquaintances who entered the house with a scream.
Sydney had a very impressive scream. The scream worked wonderfully well. People generally didn't stay long.
Gradually, Sydney discovered that he had a powerful bite, too. One day, Sydney bit his person's finger through to the bone, and soon after that, he was sent away from his home to a sanctuary.
At Best Friends Animal Society, he was given some retraining in parrot etiquette, and then a very loving home was found for him with a person who had a great deal of knowledge about parrots and experience in caring for them.
Sydney's story had a happy ending, but, sadly, many parrots who develop behavior problems like Sydney's are not so lucky. There are not enough homes or sanctuaries for them.
Parrots are the third most popular pet in the United States, following dogs and cats. However, parrots, and other pet birds, are among the most misunderstood pets in the United States. Because of this lack of understanding, these intelligent, sensitive creatures, who were meant to fly free in the rain forests, are often mistreated and neglected, or passed around from home to home.
Native wild birds do not fare any better, although the problems they face are quite different. Populations of songbirds, water birds and birds of prey in North America have been in gradual decline for several decades.
Many Web sites provide information to broaden our knowledge of birds, such as the sites of the Avian Welfare Coalition (www.avianwelfare.org), Best Friends Animal Society (www.bestfriends.org), or the Animal Protection Institute (www.nationalbirdday.org). There are hundreds of other Web sites about birds.
So, perhaps we can take a moment today, National Bird Day, to pick up a book about birds, and perhaps to think, not only of parrots in homes, but also of parrots in their native rain forests, and songbirds in wetlands and forests.
Let's also take a moment to notice the feathered ones who fly around us -- the sparrows at the shopping malls, the pigeons on the rooftops, the seagulls along the shore, the doves in our back yards, the owls in the trees at night. And, while noticing them, to reflect that they are the emissaries of our imperiled planet.
Their habitat is our habitat, and their home on earth is our home, too.
Sharon St. Joan is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and wildlife educator with Best Friends Animal Society, which operates the nation's largest sanctuary for homeless animals in Kanab. Ms. St. Joan established Wild and Feathered Friends, the bird and wildlife department at the sanctuary.
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