The brown-headed nuthatch is facing declines because of its shrinking Southeastern pinelands habitat. The Atlanta Audubon Society is asking metro-Atlanta residents to help create habitat for the bird by placing nest boxes in their yards. (Photo: Dick Daniels/Creative Commons/Wikipedia)

Year of the Bird aims to save birds

For me and countless other people, birds have always mattered. They bring joy, wonder, inspiration, hope and beauty to our world. They help protect the environment and our health by consuming tons of pesky insects and performing myriad other ecological services.

I could not imagine a world without birds.

This year, birds are getting even greater respect: 2018 has been declared the Year of the Bird by four major conservation organizations: the National Geographic Society, Birdlife International, National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In addition, more than 150 local organizations, including the Atlanta Audubon Society, are participating.

According to National Geographic, Year of the Bird, through storytelling, science research and conservation efforts, will examine how a changing environment and other threats are driving dramatic losses among bird species around the globe and “highlight what we can do to help bring birds back.”

Here, one of Atlanta Audubon’s focus birds is the brown-headed nuthatch.

A major impetus for the Year of the Bird is that 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and effective bird-protection law ever passed. It protects the hundreds of species of native birds, even those like cardinals and bluebirds that we don’t normally think of as migratory.

It protects not only the birds but also their nests, eggs and babies. During the past 100 years, the MBTA has saved millions, if not billions, of birds.

Even so, factions in Washington, D.C., are trying to weaken the MBTA and are challenging and stripping away protection for other wildlife.

This weekend, you have a chance to participate in a Year of the Bird event, the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The GBBC began Friday and continues through Monday. Taking part is easy: Spend at least 15 minutes today through Monday counting all the birds you see or hear in your yard, park, neighborhood or wherever. Then, report the results at gbbc.birdcount.org.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be first quarter on Friday. Saturn is low in the east a few hours before sunrise. Jupiter and Mars rise out of the east just after midnight.