Why Birds Are Cool
BY AMY MENG '25
It's hard to believe that five months ago, I didn't know much about birds. It all started when a friend invited the BirdID bot to our Discord server, which sends a random bird picture and makes you guess its name. I found myself addicted to the game, and soon enough, I could identify all 159 species. Along the way, I’ve discovered that birds are really cool and completely underappreciated. Here are some examples of their value and why you should take a moment to admire our feathered friends.
Birds have many special qualities. For example, you've probably already heard that chickens are dinosaurs. While it's not exactly true that chickens are Jurassic relics, birds are descendants of theropod dinosaurs like T. Rex, seeding clues to the greater mystery of the ancient world. Birds also have feathers and can fly. If this sounds obvious, that's because everyone has already internalized this: most people overlook a songbird flitting across their yard or a hawk soaring through the sky. However, flight truly is a miracle. If you search "humans attempting to fly," you can find a multitude of disastrous historical examples. Leonardo da Vinci once drew a diagram of an elaborate flight machine that, in theory, could imitate bird wings, but never became a reality. While we eventually conquered the skies with airplanes, we've never replicated a bird’s graceful and simple glide. For this reason alone, birds are destined to be superior, effortlessly accomplishing our impossible.
Beyond their flight, birds are shockingly intelligent. A night owl who sleeps late into the morning may grumble at a bird chirping outside their window. Universally known as black birds with unpleasant caws, the crow comprises one under-appreciated inhabitant in our area; not many know much about crows beyond voice and appearance. However, crows are some of the smartest animals, and many studies reveal their abilities to problem-solve. Dr. Alex Taylor, who specializes in animal biology and psychology, tasked a crow with an eight-step puzzle. It must pull a short stick out of a string loop, use it to retrieve three stones, drop the stones in a box to retrieve a longer stick, and use the longer stick to reach a piece of food. Astonishingly, it manages to finish the task in under three minutes.
In addition to being puzzle-solving masters, crows have remarkable memories and are team players. Research has shown that they can remember human faces and teach other crows to identify humans. Have you ever wondered why a group of crows is called a murder? It's because when a member of the group dies, the crows surround the dead and try to figure out what killed it. This helps group members learn from the death of their comrade and avoid suffering the same fate. Perhaps crows could teach us a thing or two.
Despite everything, many just see crows as nuisances. Farmers kill them to protect their crops, and crow hunting has become a legitimate concern. Yet, this all depends on perspective. Crows may be "pests" in one sense, but they also control many other “pests” such as caterpillars, grubs, worms, and other crop-damaging insects. Crows, as well as other birds, also tend to transport and store seeds, which, on a large enough scale, can generate forest renewal. Still, people generally see crows as more bothersome than beneficial. This problem is not exclusive to crows. Human ignorance has threatened many other birds; historically, ducks and geese have been hunted as a sport. As a result, species like the emperor goose and Hawaiian nene are threatened or nearing extinction. California condors are critically endangered, their population around 500.
Humans are responsible for environmental factors like lead poisoning, pollution, and habitat loss, which have taken their toll on bird populations. This is ironic because birds collectively benefit humans. They pollinate plants, spread seeds, eliminate pests, and can transform landscapes. Without birds, many plant species would be lost, which would decimate ecosystems. This would also lead to large-scale deforestation, affecting air and water quality. We're only moving closer to this fate with each day. By appreciating the unrivaled ~coolness~ of these creatures, we can save them, save the environment, and save ourselves.