Examining Avian and Human Virtue
At long last I have up a video in three parts that shows the Wildlife Conservation Society team of veterinarians and biologists examining wild Scarlet Macaw nest in Guatemala. It depicts a fairly thorough physical examination of wild parrots that is possible under field conditions. We learned so much about the birds, and about ourselves while doing this work in April of 2009. As you watch these videos perhaps you too can learn about what it means to be human in a community of mixed species, for me a primary religious, ethical, and hence scientific question. Like us, birds have the virtues of caring, compassion, protection, prudence, and nurturance. The parents care for their young, feed them, protect them, treat them with kindness, while also keeping a safe distance from we humans climbing the trees. You can hear the parents calling out in warning while we handle the chicks.
Like us, birds are anxious for the well being of other birds. The calling of the parents echoes our own anxiety about what will happen to the younger chick, and what can we possibly do to save this one bird, let alone an entire species that is under threat from poaching, forest fires, and habitat loss that results from an economic system that is based on addiction – to consumerism, to drugs, to satisfying one’s own needs, now, at the costs of meeting others basic needs.
Like us, birds demonstrate perseverance, strength, and adaptability. The youngest chick in this nest (the second one to be examined) is frightfully thin and over the next several weeks falls further and further behind in weight as her/his sibling thrives. Yet the bird lives for several more weeks as one or both parents still feed the ailing chick.
Like us, birds are beautiful, defiantly so as it seems against all odds that such a rainbow of colors and social complexity survives from egg to the powerful, gliding adults circling over us during the examination. How did such beauty come into existence and how shall it survive we ask? To answer this question we continue to examine our own lives, our own complicity in a system fraught with harm for ourselves and others, and we continue to examine these birds and their chicks, for the hope of understanding what is ours to do in this world. How shall we liberate ourselves as we liberate the birds, and love ourselves as all our neighbors?