In celebration of National Bird Day 2016, Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate for Born Free USA and lifelong bird enthusiast, is writing a special five-part blog series. Below is the first installment.
Yes, sure... I love birds. And yes, I've studied, observed, and obsessed over them since early childhood. I've taken care of them (my late mother was a pioneer in the rescue and rehabilitation of wild birds, so for several decades, I lived in a house full of birds of many species who needed our help), drawn and painted them as an artist, and bonded strongly with a few individual birds along the way. I belong to various ornithological organizations, have written books and articles on birds-both popular and scientific-and carefully studied wild birds throughout the world.
Thus, I guess it's normal to expect folks to send me links to various "cute" bird videos online. Goodness knows there are enough of them! But, here's the thing: I don't like those videos.
They not only often show stressed birds displaying bizarre behavior, but they also show some of our worst attitudes toward animals. The birds are all too commonly treated as living toys: little animated things who make us laugh with their "antics" as we deprive them of all that led to their existence in the first place. They are shown as small, feathered clowns-ill-suited for the world of tile and hardwood floors, Formica countertops, chairs, couches, kitchens, and cages in which they perform for our fickle amusement-doing "silly" things that, with luck, will go "viral" on YouTube.