It’s all the dinosaurs left us. I mean, aside from fossils, fuel and fodder for 20th-century movies.
Birds fly across the open sky and transport us. They take us to the Mesozoic era where they evolved from a group of theropod dinosaurs. They take us to the Mediterranean to show us Icarus falling from the sky. They take us to Audubon’s brush, Keats’ pen and Vivaldi’s compositions.
They inspire. Awe. Educate.
They allow us to see nature through the prism of space (global migration and habitat change) and time (evolution):
In 2012, I visited the White Mountain National Forest in Lincoln, New Hampshire, as an artist in residence. There, forest scientists taught me about the Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli), whose only summer habitat is below the alpine area in that national forest, a habitat shrinking as global climate change allows hardwoods to encroach from below and high winds at the alpine elevations restrict the upper boundaries of their dense Balsam Fir habitat.
This bird species migrates to habitats beyond the forest boundaries, wintering on the island of Hispaniola, where its habitat is being deforested. Researchers are focused on the effects of acid rain and the deposition of mercury at the top of mountains of the national forest as a possible cause for dwindling species populations. I didn’t get to see one while I was there. I painted it from pictures. Its absence reminds me how vulnerable we all are.
We share the same biology. What impacts them impacts us.
They are indeed canaries in our collective coal mine, Planet Earth.
Seek them out.
Listen to their song.
If we chose to bury our heads in the sand, we may go by way of the dinosaurs.
Xavier Cortada, Miami
The Tropical Audubon Society is holding its annual Christmas Bird Count. To participate on Dec. 24, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To participate on Dec. 31, contact fieldtrips @tropicalaudubon.org.