5 Underappreciated Birds to Celebrate

The sweet-sounding songbird. The hard-working hummingbird. The celebrated red-tailed hawk. When it comes to people’s affection for birds, there is a definite pecking order.

Far below the prettier species are the ones many prefer to demonize. They scavenge on carcasses of dead animals. They annoy people.

National Bird Day on Jan. 5 celebrates them all. Here are five commonly misunderstood birds we should celebrate, not decry.

1. Vultures

Vultures overall play a vital role in their ecosystems. Their scavenging prevents diseases from spreading and cleans up the areas they live.

According to the BBC, India inadvertently killed off about 40 million vultures over 20 years with a drug used to treat livestock. Rabies is more rampant than ever.

“People tend to think they’re ugly, dirty and smelly, and they’re far from it and they’re absolutely crucial to the environment,” said the International Centre for Birds of Prey’s Jemima Parry-Jones, to BBC. “They’re the only dustmen in the world who’ve never gone on strike.”

2. Magpies

As Care2‘s Steve Williams notes, a lot of people consider the magpie a pest, but they have a lot of positives going for them.

Take their intelligence. Unlike most animals, they recognize themselves in mirrors. That makes them among the seven known non-human species who can do that.

3. American Crow

The American crow has long been tied with bad luck. Their signature caw is a far cry from the popular birds’ pleasant chirping.

Still, they’re another bird whose intelligence you should respect. According to one study, they’re as smart as a 7-year-old kid.

4. Cormorants

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

According to New Scientist, people kill about 50,000 double-crested cormorants a year. The seabird competes with fishermen, significantly cutting down on fish species like walleyes.

However, in the Great Lakes, they tend to feed on invasive species and aren’t the biggest problem affecting fish populations, next to pollution and other issues.

“To assume that cormorants have a negative impact is wrong,” University of Minnesota researcher Linda Wires tells MinnPost. “Cormorants are highly efficient predators, but they are pretty much limited by the density of the fish. When fish density becomes more sparse, they’re not going to stick in an area. They’ll move on. And when cormorants fish an area, the fish that remain benefit, with faster growth rates. Also, diseased fish get caught quicker.”

5. European Starlings

Even birding authority Audubon has sanctioned hating starlings. They’re invasive, loud and destructive. But as Nicholas Lund writes, the dislike is only fun if it’s harmless.

“Think of it as an extension of your growing sophistication and taste as a birder. You can try it with other birds, too. Don’t like House Sparrows, those feeder-hogging invasive city-slickers? Great. Think grebes are nothing but pond scum? That’s really weird and you should maybe give them another shot, but, hey, you do you,” Lund writes. “So next time you see a starling, give it a sneer. It’ll feel good. It works for any species so long as you restrict your hatred to sneers and epithets, not actual physical harm.”

Keep in mind starlings do have redeeming qualities. As Washington State University News notes, they eat pests. They’re also skilled in teamwork, sometimes flying in groups of hundreds to stay safe from predators.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

93 comments

Billie C
Billie C15 days ago

thanks. love the crows and vultures we see around here.

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Sheila Miller
Sheila M16 days ago

All these birds are really cool! Every creature has its place in the cycle of life, and every creature is beautiful. Thanks for the article.

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Arlene C
Arlene C16 days ago

Merci Emily

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LF F
LF F16 days ago

I do appreciate birds especially the ones that clean up after our roadside animal incidents. Nature is a good recycler if we don't interfere.

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Veronica D
Veronica D16 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D16 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D16 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Callie R
Callie R16 days ago

Really like this type of post, thank you.

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Janis K
Janis K16 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Kathleen E
Kathleen E16 days ago

These are all beautiful in their own way, same as us humans.
A Happy Healthy New Year to All on care2.

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