Birds in Nature
Birds are smart animals who deserve our respect. Some kids who don’t know any better chase pigeons, ducks, or geese at the park. But birds in nature are sensitive, and if we use our empathy and think about how we’d feel if someone started chasing us for no reason, we can see that this isn’t a nice thing to do! It would be really scary, wouldn’t it? One of the ways we can be a friend to birds is by trying not to scare them.
Pigeons Love Their Families and Never Need to Ask for Directions
Many birds, like pigeons, have great memories. Pigeons are devoted to their families—they mate for life and raise their young together. And they are really good at navigating. They use their own magnetic compasses but actually follow roads more often! They can fly up to 50 miles per hour and can travel up to 600 miles in a day. They also have excellent hearing and vision.
Geese Use Teamwork and Communicate a Lot Like Humans
Geese mate for life and are protective of their partners and babies. They’re so loyal, too, that they’ll often refuse to leave the side of a sick or hurt mate or chick, even if their flock is about to fly south for the winter. Geese mourn if their partner dies—and some spend the rest of their lives without a mate, refusing to choose a new one.
When geese families come together to make a group, it’s called a gaggle. They have strength in numbers and look out for each other. Geese use as many as 13 different calls, such as honking, to give warnings, say hello, and express emotions. They may fly thousands of miles in a “V” shape during migration. The flock members rotate from the front to the back of the V when they get tired, and those in the rear honk their encouragement to the leaders—go, team!
Ducks Are Social Animals Who Like to Stay Very Clean
Ducks feel most at home when they’re with their group. And speaking of home, ducks always make sure their nests are clean. They also enjoy preening their feathers. Like geese, ducks are excellent travelers, and they fly hundreds of miles each year (as fast as 60 miles per hour!) during migration.
Ducks are great talkers, and scientists have found that they even have regional accents—city ducks have more of a “shouting” quack so that other birds can hear them above the hustle and bustle, while country ducks have softer voices. It seems like they have a lot in common with the humans they live near. 😊
How You Can Help Birds in Nature
Never eat birds. Ducks, geese, turkeys, and chickens don’t belong on your dining room table or in your sandwich! They’re sensitive animals who deserve just as much respect as your family’s dog. Why? Because they have thoughts, feelings, and families and they can feel pain and suffer, too—just like dogs, cats, and humans.
Don’t chase pigeons or feed birds at the park. Bread can make ducks and geese sick and can cause deformities like “angel wing,” which can kill them. If you see someone feeding ducks and geese bread, let them know that it’s really bad for birds and that uneaten bread can pollute the water.
Tell everyone you know that birds are smart and social, and remind them not to chase birds in nature or feed them bread. If you see a nest, don’t touch it! And if you see an injured or orphaned bird, ask a grownup to call the nearest wildlife rehabilitator.
Birds Kept as ‘Pets’
Birds are colorful and smart and have the amazing ability to fly. The wandering albatross, for example, can travel as far as 10,000 miles without stopping! In nature, these social animals find mates and join flocks. They don’t like being alone, and they call out to one another if they are separated. Birds spend hours side by side, chirping to each other while foraging for food, playing, and flying.
Birds Sold in the Pet Trade
Even though birds are meant to fly and forage with their families, many are kept caged as “pets.” Birds—from different types of parrots to finches and more—are the third most popular companion animal in the U.S., with about 10 million of them trapped in cages all around the country. All these caged birds were either taken from their homes in nature or bred in captivity.
Just as there are puppy mills that breed dogs in horrible conditions, there are also parrot mills. Breeders warehouse thousands of birds in dirty, dark cages, where they can’t stretch out their wings fully—just like hens used for eggs.
Most People Don’t Know How to Care for Properly for Birds Kept as ‘Pets’
Many people buy birds without realizing how much time, money, and energy goes into caring for them. Birds kept as ‘pets’ need a lot of interaction, expensive toys, healthy food, and large cages. When people who buy birds because they looked “cute” in pet stores find out that they can be noisy, messy, destructive, and curious animals, they are often given away or forced to stay in their cages for their entire lives. Some birds can live to be older than 100 years, but not many captive ones reach that age.
Life in a Cage Is No Life for a Bird
Birds kept as ‘pets’ are often so frustrated and lonely that they begin to hurt themselves. They pull out their own feathers, injure their skin, bob their heads, pace back and forth, peck over and over again at the cage bars, and shake or even collapse from anxiety.
How You Can Help Birds Kept as ‘Pets’
Your family should never buy a bird—or any animal—from a pet store or breeder and shouldn’t buy any animal companion supplies from pet stores that sell birds. Make sure to buy treats, toys, and food for your dogs and cats from stores that don’t sell birds. If you or your friends already share your home with a bird, there are a few things you and your grownups can do to make sure you’re giving them the best life possible:
- Let the bird out of the cage for a good amount of time every single day. Make sure overhead fans are turned off and any mirrors in the room are covered before you open the cage door.
- Whistle with them, and let them perch on your shoulder if they want to. Birds are curious and like to nibble on shiny things so remove your earrings and your glasses before they land on you if you can!
- Work with your grownups to take them to an avian veterinarian for annual checkups. You can call to set up the appointments for your grownup and go with your bird so he or she feels safe.
- Cover the cage with a sheet that allows ventilation at night from dusk until morning. (Birds like to sleep for about 12 hours.)
- Watch out for dangers like open toilet bowls, electric wires, and other household items or locations where birds can become stuck or injure themselves. Make sure you and your grownups don’t cook with nonstick cookware because the fumes can kill birds.
- Give them lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and toys to keep them occupied. Birds forage for their food in nature and have active minds that need to be kept busy by solving puzzles.
- Feed them a healthy diet specific to their species. Consult your avian veterinarian.