Birds capture our fancy and arouse our curiosity
John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and a former National Audubon Society board member, gives this answer:
“They live from the windswept high Arctic to the world’s driest deserts, and everywhere in between. Some hunt in the darkest of nights, navigating by listening for their own echoes. Others hunt from high in the shy using eyesight far keener than our own. Some raise just a single chick every two or three years, others can hatch a flock of their own several times a year. They may eat other animals (tiny to large), vegetables (seeds and fruits to leaves and buds), and even minerals (clay to sheep bones).
They flap, soar, stoop, glide, swim, dive, walk, hop, and run like the wind. They can dance with choreography that baffles us, sing with melodies that haunt us, display with decorations that enchant us, and feign injury so convincingly as to fool us. Some mate for life and live in extended families, others mate for an instant and never see their offspring. Some never leave the local woodlot all their lives; others know the planet as a north-south stage to move across twice a year.”
Birds are a crucial link in the chain of life
Just as canaries protected coalminers in the past, birds still serve as environmental sentinels indicating when and where there are problems. The vast distances they travel and exposure to diverse ecosystems make them unique barometers of Earth's health. If birds are at risk, so are people and the chain of life on earth.