Just a bird!

“As a keen naturalist and zoo owner I absolutely hate the fateful words – “oh it’s just a bird”! You wonder what knowledge, information and appreciation will get passed on especially when it is adults talking to their children!

So, what is an animal and what makes them different to a bird? Come on then let’s think about this logically and add a little science! An animal (by Oxford dictionary definition) is a multi-cellular organism that can move of its free will!!

What is a bird then, as a good 30% of our visitors dismiss birds out of hand and go looking for animals for their children?

In the animal kingdom, the most numerous animals are krill (maybe 500 trillion plus), on land it is probably ants outweighing us in terms of biomass and scientist reckon over 8.5 million species are thought to still exist on earth of which about 1.2million are animals (about 1 million of these are insects).

Animals either have backbones or they do not. It is far more usual to see animals that do not have backbones – so out of the world’s vertebrates there are possibly 60,000 species potentially you could see in a zoo! Yet it just seems that people resonate with larger vertebrates like us.

Obviously, a bird is an animal! Did you realise that there are 2 times more species of birds than mammals alive today. In a nut shell, then if you are looking for vertebrates you are twice as likely to see a bird!!!

Birds occupy an area of space that can make them easy to see – they fly! Birds are still in areas of farmed land that other animals have deserted or been eaten in! Birds are largely out during the day and tend not to deliberately skulk or hide like hunted vertebrates (bush meat)! Birds sing and have colorful plumage that makes them obvious! Birds can raise another adult bird in as little as 4 weeks once or twice a year – amazing to watch! Birds can be as small as a hummingbird or as large as an ostrich. The world of birds is special and unique…..

So, if you overhear somebody say it’s just a bird, then like us tell them what is special about that bird and how today’s research shows that seeing birds promotes positive and good feelings in people. A bird is an animal and it is special for lots of reasons – they deserve appreciation for what they are – an animal that we can all relate to and appreciate the diversity of nature!

Just get on and flap about it – I will!

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