Volunteering for the Birds!

By Rob and Maria

We’ve been volunteering twice a month at the National Aviary since October. In our busy, modern world, sometimes even those alternating weekends feel tough to schedule, but once we’re there, it’s such a joy. It just does not get old to talk with kids and families to spark excitement for conservation and wildlife. Plus, there is just something about the sheer beauty and mysteriousness of nature that can coax a smile from even someone having the worst day. We get to watch some of those smiles appear.

It’s also fun to see what aspects of the various birds really draw people in. Some find the strength and majesty of the bald and stellar eagles to be most impressive. Others like the tall confident stance and pink color of the flamingoes. The small songbirds flitting from branch to branch while showing off their singing skills fascinate the young and old alike. And crowds are always drawn to the South African penguins’ awkward waddle but followed by their sleek and effortless swimming. Every room holds different birds and habitats for guests to see.

And you know, honestly, besides the fun of sharing fun facts about birds, most guests really do appreciate being welcomed into a space and having someone taking the time to try to answer questions and enrich their visit. We as humans all need to be reminded that we matter sometimes. When we volunteer, we have the unique opportunity to convey to each guest we encounter that their experience is important to us. If we have the chance to turn someone’s day around by chatting, listening, or sharing a little bit of nature’s magic, then we’ve had an afternoon well spent. The world is a rough place, right? Doesn’t it feel good to pass on a few smiles? Especially with some fabulous birds!

Besides being Pretty, What Good are Birds?

Well now, we can’t say that we volunteer around birds and then not remind everyone out there in cyberspace how important birds are! Afterall, God may be the ultimate Artist, but His creations aren’t just for show. Birds provide many vital services to our world, such as:

  • Manage the populations of pests such as insects and rodents (no joke, birds eat 400-500 million tons of insects every year.)
  • Pollinate a variety of plants—and no scoffing, one of out every three bites we eat comes from a pollinated plant.
  • Disperse seeds
  • Manage carrion—no small accomplishment. Over the past few decades, India has been unfortunate enough to see what happens when >90% of vultures disappear—without avian scavengers, mammalian scavengers like feral dogs rose to take their place, and with them came a terrible spike in disease.
  • Serve as food for other animals (that food web, man)
  • Sure, that may sound superficially fluffy, but birds have inspired writers, poets, artists, and songwriters for millennia; and how many of us at one point or another have just appreciated birds for being what they are?

These are just a few examples, there are plenty more if you would care to do a bit digging 😊 For now, though, we just wanted to offer a teeny glimpse of what volunteering has looked like to us.

All the legalese: this is our personal blog and may not reflect the views of the National Aviary. All thoughts presented here are our own.

dynamite duo at the Aviary

Some cool kids.

Gouldian finch

Gouldian finch, Erythrura gouldiae, native to Australia

scissor tailed flycatcher

Scissor-tailed flycatcher, Tyrannus forficatus, native to south-central US.

stellars

Steller’s sea eagle, Haliaeetus pelagicus, native to coastal eastern Asia, primarily Russia.

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