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The 5th of January is Bird Day. Strictly speaking, it is National Bird Day, an America-based celebration, but why should the celebration of birds be limited to our US friends? So let’s just make it international, shall we?

Here in New Zealand we have a fairly small diversity of bird species, many of which are water birds. Even within this limited range, we have some very interesting and uniquely amusing species, such as the kiwi, tui, kea and my personal favourite, the decidedly odd pukeko. Wider afield, a dazzling array of birds can be found (almost 10 000 species worldwide), so it’s little wonder that people can get completely engrossed in fields such as ornithology and bird watching.

The pupeko - when it's young, it's all feet. It is only as it gets older that it's body starts catching up with the feet (well, sort of...). (© All Rights Reserved)

The pupeko, or Purple Swamphen of New Zealand. When it’s young, it’s all feet; it is only as it gets older that it’s body starts catching up with the feet (well, sort of…).
(© All Rights Reserved)

Bird Day is a time to celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of birds everywhere. And, perhaps more importantly, to focus attention on the plight of the feathered ones – currently no less than 12% of the world’s bird species are facing the prospect of extinction within this century. That’s more than 1000 species of birds destined to disappear from the face of the earth unless something is done about it.

Being sentinel species, birds are considered to be an important barometer and indicator of the health of our ecosystems. So, given the number of bird species facing extinction, it should serve as quite a serious warning regarding the state of our environment in general.

From the most common to the most exotic, birds have always fascinated and inspired humankind. What are the chances that the Wright Brothers, and all other humans obsessed with flight, would have gotten anywhere at all without the example provided by birds?

So take some time to celebrate our feathered friends, and make the effort to find out what you can do to avoid the extinction of many birds species around us. Happy Bird Day!

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