1. Join or support an avian conservation team or project
Avian veterinary medical skills are not the only offering for avian conservation. If you have skills in fundraising, publicity, graphic design, translation, photography and video recording, editing and writing, website design, biology, climbing, or handling birds you may find a spot in the field, or working remotely as part of the support staff. If you do not have a lot of time, expertise, or mobility you can also participate in local bird counts such as the Great Backyard Bird Count or the Audubon Annual Christmas Bird Count.
2. Donate resources to avian conservation
There are a plethora of worthwhile avian conservation projects to which you can donate supplies, equipment, and funds. You can donate to a metaconservation group, such as Bird Life International, the National Audubon Society, or the American Bird Conservancy or familiarize yourself with smaller specialty groups such as Parrots International and World Parrot Trust. Whatever you decide to do, check the organization’s website for its mission, objectives, and financial reports.
3. Know the origin, ecology and behavior of any bird you work with or wish to acquire.
Use books, articles, videos, interviews, and the Internet. See the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) for their global list of endangered and threatened birds as well as the North American list of endangered and threatened birds published by the Cornell Ornithology Laboratory.
The well being of birds and the environments in which they live is directly related to the health of human communities. For instance, poverty and loss of biodiversity are intimately linked. Avian conservation efforts increasingly include human health in their research objectives. It is more difficult to procure information about human communities in relation to birds, but start with Bird Life International and RARE Conservation.
4. Promote education and awareness in others
Offer information about avian conservation in your clinic. Play videos from youtube.com or bird conservation sites. Provide brochures and handouts about avian conservation at home and abroad, and frame posters on conservation. Have a computer available to search for and display conservation projects. Sell books and other items that support avian conservation projects. Share with others what you know about the status of birds in the wild. Engage in social and informational networks like Twitter and Facebook, and offer presentations to local civic and community groups, including bird clubs and veterinary associations.
5. Care for birds in captivity while questioning their existence in captivity
One of the best ways to “conserve birds” is to care adequately for those already in our midst. To do so we need to understand their complex natures as best we can so we can provide them with an enriching and healthy environment. In reality, there is no way an artificially constructed environment can match the evolved adaptations of a bird to a complex ecological and social niche.
For this reason, one must consider carefully the moral obligations humans have whenever they consider having a wild animal in captivity. For many, the question is not how to provide the good life for a bird, but whether most bird species should be in captivity in the first place. Understanding how birds come into captivity or into your homes (often through conditions that cause suffering, death, extinction, and environmental and biodiversity degradation) deters many from keeping birds in captivity. If birds are to come into captivity, basically they should be fair trade, organic, sustainable, humanely reared, and experience rich lives as a companion in your life. This means that the people who work with the birds earn a living wage, that the environment and the bird is not harmed in the process, and that the bird and her or his parents have a wonderful life throughout their time spent with humans.
6. Strive for a low carbon footprint, making your home and work environments as “green” as possible
The more we consume of the earth’s resources, the less there is for other life forms. We may not see the devastation that our consumer choices cause, however, much of what we have comes from other peoples and birds losing their habitats if not their very lives. For instance, the habitat of the Yellow-billed parrot (Amazona collaria) in Jamaica is threatened by zinc mining, so the more we recycle, the less environmental impact there is for this species. There are many other small steps that can positively impact lives. To learn more, go to the New American Dream(www.newdream.org).
7. Support organizations that promote avian conservation
Visit or vacation at a sanctuary, park, or avitourist destination. Your dollars help sustain the viability of programs that seek to protect and nurture birds and people. Reducing consumption of natural resources near and far means there is more for the birds and the habitats in which they live. By targeting your spending for goods that support people and their efforts to live sustainably, you are helping birds. In turn, as we nurture humans, we nurture the environments in which they live. Learn more by visiting the International Ecotourism, Sustainable Travel International, and the agencies listed in “Ten Things Every Avian Veterinarian Should Know About Conservation Medicine” (www.LafeberVet.com)
8. Support an advocacy group
Though there is greater public awareness about choices that reflect compassionate care for life and environmental values, human societies need not just education, but public policy to provide in-depth, timely, and far reaching guidelines for change. There is always work to be done on the local and international level for legislation and policy. Find out more through the American Bird Conservancy, Avian Welfare Coalition, Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Audubon Society.
9. Support students wishing to study avian conservation at home and overseas
Individuals native to a particular region bring longevity, embodied understanding, and commitment to any avian conservation project. Therefore one of the best ways to support avian conservation is to provide educational support for students in conservation biology, wildlife management, and veterinary medicine. You can also support international student and veterinarian travel. For instance, the Association of Avian Veterinarians provides scholarships for student externships. You may also contact Dr. Dennis Guerro Centeno at the San Carlos School of Veterinary Medicine and Zoology in Guatemala who seeks scholarship support for graduate students studying psittacine conservation in Guatemala (firstname.lastname@example.org).
10. Grow your enjoyment of birds and encourage others to do the same
“The experience of beauty has a built-in consequence: fairness.
(It) refers both to loveliness and to the ethical requirement to be
fair, play fair, or distribute fairly. Beauty issues a call to symmetry
and equality, a call to be just.” --Elaine Scarry
Birds are beautiful and bring much pleasure and enjoyment. When watching them we grow in our sense of their beauty, which calls us to greater care and compassion of our natural world. Bird watching is avian conservation in the making, and estimates of American birdwatchers range from 46 million to over 60 million. Carry binoculars when you go walking or keep a pair in your car. Take time to slow down and observe birds. They’ll surprise you with their behavior and beauty. While at work and at home ask others if they had any interactions with birds and what they thought and felt. In their relationships with birds, were there aspects that brought them joy and peace, understanding and clarity, sadness and loss? If we can take time to celebrate, mourn, and express gratitude with others about our lives with birds we grow our capacity to care, and renew ourselves so that we may work diligently and consistently over the many years it will take to save even one species.
To find out more about bird watching go to birding.com and the National Audubon Society. Go to Wings of Compassion (www.lafeberwingsofcompassion.com) for information on avian loss.
You can celebrate birds on National Bird Day, January 5 (www.nationalbirdday.com)
For a copy of this handout and others on conservation, go to www.LafeberVet.com