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Birding Big Day

Why Birds???

Birds are found in all habitats where you find humans, some have even adapted to the city life. They play a significant role towards various human cultures and traditions around the world. When I was still a goat boy in the village of Limpopo we used birds and bird cues, for a variety of things: Food, pets, finding water holes, anticipation of rain and seasons. Certain birds are also used in a traditional ritualistic way of foretelling events (e.g. Hammerkop harbinger of bad luck; Stalks = new birth; hornbill = rain, like this there are many). Humans admire birds, for they are the kings of the sky or that they have inspired some great inventions, but that’s not what makes them special. Feathers are unique only to birds and have quite a sophisticated adaptation to go with, like flight, and aesthetic colorations which inspired birding (bird watching).

Birding is a growing past time that brings people of similar interest together, many people derive great pleasure, and fulfillment in this past time (it takes getting used to), it also teaches you to see beyond what you’re looking at. It’s both recreational and can be used with citizen-science to collect useful data for science. They inspire the conservation of nature and other animals, they are important sentinels for the environment pioneering protection of certain areas (e.g. Important Bird/Biodiversity Area-IBA). I was first introduced to birding as a hobby in my undergraduate years, that got me hooked and I ended up pursuing an MSc in Ornithology to study these beasts of the forest. That has led me to discover some of the discomforts our society is causing to the environment, and it has since become a mission I feel obliged to make it my life’s purpose.

Birds are very sensitive to environmental changes, be that to their habitat (where they live) or foraging grounds (where they feed). For that reason they can be used as indicators of the general state of our biodiversity and health of the ecosystem. They are easy to census and monitor which makes them valuable to science. Some bird species provide practical solutions to problems, such as controlling insect and rodent populations, birds as natural seed propagation and dispersion, nourishment of the soil. Hence we see plants growing spontaneously at different locations

It goes without saying that birds are a critical part of our ecological system… but now more than ever birds are threatened with extinctions mostly from human induced factors like pollution (plastics), overuse of natural resources (overfishing), climate change, introduction of invasive species (mice on Islands), to name a few, and despite all efforts the NGO’s and governments are doing, the power is in every single one of us to consciously reduce our impact on the ecological systems and strive to live more consciously of not only birds but all living creatures and the environment. Awareness is vital and should be easy with modern day technologies as most people.

Makhudu Masotla
Seabird Conservation Intern in Cape Town under the Albatross Task Force (ATF) and Common Oceans projects. His work will focus on the mitigation of seabird bycatch.