All About Animals: The Issues (Ages 11-14): Birds

Many people keep birds as companions, but considering that birds are meant to fly, do you think it is fair to keep them in small cages? In the woods, jungles and forests – and even in our towns – birds fly about freely, journeying hundreds or even thousands of kilometres, and soaring to great heights. They are free to go wherever they choose, whenever they choose.

Birds are not “bird-brained” at all. In fact, they are very intelligent. Take a look at the following amazing facts about birds:

  • Crows have about 300 different calls, but not all crows understand each other. Just like us, they have different accents. Crows in the United States don’t understand some calls that their British cousins make and vice versa.
  • Birds make sounds that we don’t usually hear, like the hushed chatter and whispering between two nesting crows. They take turns “talking,” having the bird equivalent of a conversation.
  • Birds remember exactly where they’ve hidden thousands of seeds each autumn and can find their way back to their stashes using the sun, stars, landmarks and sometimes the magnetic pull of the Earth to guide them. Isn’t that incredible?
  • We know that crows use tools like twigs to pick up food, but one crow amazed birdwatchers by going one step further and making her own tool! She cleverly bent a wire in order to hook a piece of food that she couldn’t reach with her feet. What a smart bird!
  • Birds dance, play “hide-and-seek” and have even been seen sliding down snowy slopes and climbing back up over and over for the sheer joy of it, just as we do!
  • Crows in Japan have been seen using cars to crack open walnuts. The birds wait until cars stop at road junctions, then they place nuts in the road, knowing that when the traffic light turns green, the cars will roll over the nuts and crack them open. When the light turns red and the cars stop again, the crows hop back into the street to eat the nuts. How clever is that?!
  • Many people have witnessed birds’ grieving. After a car killed a coucal’s (a member of the cuckoo family) mate, he refused to leave her side or stop trying to revive her.
  • Birds also show astonishing kindness. A robin who crippled his rival in a fight fed him and worked to keep him alive. Pairs of terns took turns lifting a hurt member of the flock by his wings in order to carry him to safety.

And yet thousands of birds are still taken from their families and flocks every year, packed up as if they were plastic dolls and sent to countries like Britain to be kept as “pets”. Many become ill and don’t even survive the journey.

If you want to keep a bird, think about the following two things:
1) How would I feel if I were taken from my home and forced to live in a cage?
2) How would I feel if my actions contributed to the extinction of a species of bird?

If you feel bad about keeping a bird in a cage, but you have an aviary, (a special large area where birds can fly safely) and you are really keen to give a home to one or more birds, why not go to a rescue centre and adopt birds from there? That way, you’ll give a bird a second chance at a happy life and get the pleasure of seeing them live and fly!