Bird Day – Celebrate All Year

Although there are several Bird Days celebrated around the world, any day is a good day to celebrate birds.

Birds are beautiful, musical, important denizens of nature, fascinating to watch, and eat insect pests (they also eat my wildflower seeds). Oh, and they can fly.

Egret in Marsh - Photo: Author's Son AdamDuring our short wet time, egrets can be seen in the marshy areas. They are tall, bright white birds, elegant in flight and on the ground. There is no hiding for the egret. It seems to stand there and say, “I am proud to be me” or maybe “look at me, look at me”. The egret is my favorite bird. My son Adam took the egret photo for my website header and this one.

The First Bird Day

Professor Charles A. Babcock, Superintendent of Schools in Oil City, Pennsylvania, is credited with initiating the first Bird Day on May 4, 1894. His book, Bird Day: How to Prepare for It, published in 1901, shares the history of the Bird Day movement, value of birds, destruction of birds, and a study plan for school children.

Bird Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes - Library of CongressAt the time, bird feathers, skins, and sometimes entire bodies were used to ornament hats and other articles of clothing. Millions of birds were being killed for fashion and bird habit was being lost as more land was cleared for development.

In order to build upon student’s interest in learning about birds and sharing their observations, Professor Babcock introduced a study plan that began in January and culminated on Bird Day in May.

The founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton, the Audubon Society, ornithologists, and other bird lovers supported and advocated for Bird Day.

National Bird Day

January 5, 2013, marked the 11th anniversary of National Bird Day, an initiative of Born Free USA, an animal welfare, and wildlife conservation organization. The purpose of National Bird Day is to inform the public and advocate for wild and pet bird welfare.

International Migratory Bird Day

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) was created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to educate people about migratory birds, their importance in the environment, hazards they face, and ways to protect them.

Life Cycles of Migratory Birds - Art by Barry Kent MacKay for Environment for the AmericasThe first IMBD was celebrated in 1993 at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversaw the event from 1995 until 2007 when the nonprofit Environment for the Americas assumed responsibility for coordinating International Migratory Bird Day.

Generally, IMBD is celebrated the 2nd Saturday in May in the U.S. and Canada, and the 2nd Saturday in October in Mexico, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean.

IMBD events are hosted by bird clubs, local, state, and national parks, schools, zoos, and community groups. Events range from bird walks to education programs, to festivals. In 2012, there were over 500 registered events.

World Migratory Bird Day

To build on the success of International Migratory Bird Day, mostly observed in the Americas, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was created for the rest of the world in 2006 by the Secretariat of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

World Migratory Bird Day is observed the 2nd weekend in May. In 2012, more than 250 events were registered in 81 countries around the world.

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Eco-Friendly and Ethical Chocolate — Birds and Trees

While researching chocolate, I learned about Rainforest Alliance Certified™ products and was introduced to the terms Bird Friendly® and shade-grown. We’ll wrap up this third of three chocolate posts with birds and trees.

Bird Friendly®

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Bird Friendly® LogoThe Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center created the Bird Friendly® seal of approval to encourage conservation of bird habitat via production of shade-grown, organic coffee. Besides being beautiful and often melodic members of the planet, birds provide “ecosystem services” such as eating insect pests, spreading seeds and pollinating crops. Although Bird Friendly® is specific to coffee (at this point), shade-grown has a wide application, including growing cacao.

Shade-Grown Cacao

Growing cacao trees beneath native canopy trees enhance environmental sustainability by protecting water and soil, retaining habitat for birds, insects, and other wildlife, and providing other products for farmers.

Leaf litter under tree canopies helps the soil retain moisture and fertility, and provides habit for insects that pollinate cacao trees.

Birds and other animals help keep insect pest populations down, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides which are harmful to wildlife and people.

Growing cacao along with other crops such as avocado, pineapple, coffee, papaya, and bananas can increase biodiversity which helps fight off pests and plant diseases and provides additional income for farmers.

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance mission and strategy can best be described in their own words.

Mission: “The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.”

Strategy: “We believe that the best way to keep forests standing is by ensuring that it is profitable for businesses and communities to do so.”

I especially like the strategy as expecting businesses to “do the right thing” is unrealistic. It is far better to help businesses understand the impact of their actions and how they can make or save money by implementing planet and people friendly practices.

Products from farms that adhere to standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) may earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal of approval.

Sustainable Agriculture Network

The Sustainable Agriculture Network standards are based upon 10 guiding principles.

  1. Management System – social and environmental management systems are required to ensure compliance with SAN standards and laws of respective countries.
  2. Ecosystem Conservation – protect waterways, prohibit deforestation, and Rainforest Canopy - photo from Sustainable Agriculture Networkprevent negative impacts on natural areas outside farmlands.
  3. Wildlife Protection – monitor and protect wildlife on farms, especially endangered species.
  4. Water Conservation – reduce water consumption, avoid contaminating water sources, and treat wastewater appropriately.
  5. Working Conditions – ensure good working conditions in line with International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.
  6. Occupational Health – health and safety programs to reduce accidents, ensure machinery and equipment is in safe and good working order, and provide training in the proper handling of agrochemicals.
  7. Community Relations – consult with communities and local interest groups regarding farm impacts, and contribute to local development via employment, training, and public works.
  8. Integrated Crop Management – minimize or eliminate pesticides and other agrochemicals; if used protect the health of people and the environment.
  9. Soil Conservation – prevent erosion, enrich the soil with organic matter, and reduce agrochemical use.
  10. Integrated Waste Management – reduce, recycle, reuse, and dispose of waste in an environmentally sound manner.

Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Chocolate

Rainforest Alliance Certified™ LogoThe Rainforest Alliance website provides a handy tool called “Shop the Frog” for finding Rainforest Alliance Certified™ products. By selecting United States, California, Food & Beverages, and Chocolate from the drop down menus I received a list of brands as well as brick and mortar and online stores selling Rainforest Alliance Certified™ chocolate.

Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and Fair Trade certified chocolate standards have many elements in common. This provides shoppers with a lot of chocolate choices from companies that are both eco-friendly and ethical. Enjoy.

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