Listen to the Birds Today

Some days, they sing messages of peril. But some days, they sing songs of beauty and hope.
An Indigo Bunting sings on top of a sunflower.
A male Indigo Bunting sings from the top of a sunflower. Photo: Scott Suriano/Audubon Photography Awards

Over the past few issues of Audubon magazine I have shared some of the ways that birds tell us things. They tell us what is happening to the air and water and land that we all need to survive. They tell us about a changing climate—or the arrival of spring.

At Audubon we listen to what birds are telling us. When night-migrating warblers tell us, with their fragile bodies littering the sidewalks, that light pollution is deadly and needs to be fixed, our network comes together to press for Lights Out proclamations or ordinances in cities such as Asheville, North Carolina.

When hungry Atlantic Puffin chicks tell us that forage fish stocks are low or hard to find, our Coasts and Conservation Policy teams have pushed to make sure that fisheries are managed in such a way that birds will have enough to eat.

When the songs of Western Meadowlarks become less frequent because our prairies are converted to monocrops and parking lots, our Conservation Ranching team makes sure that ranchers across the West have access to land-management practices that sustain grassland birds, while also ensuring that their products have a market through partnerships with retailers such as Panorama Meats.

But in addition to being messengers, birds bring us so much joy. Take, for example, the people who flocked to Montrose Beach in Chicago to watch as the first Piping Plovers in more than 70 years nested there. Although Monty, the beloved duo’s male, died this spring, one of their chicks has since returned to the Great Lakes, where it successfully fledged the first Ohio Piping Plover chicks in more than 80 years. 

Consider the thousands of Audubon chapter members who lead advocacy days, birding trips, art festivals, birding festivals, and native plant sales or participate in community science projects like the Christmas Bird Count or Climate Watch, all inspired by the love they feel for the birds in their communities.

Or think of the thousands of photographers who quietly wait for the perfect moment—sometimes in brutally hot or frigid conditions—poised to capture glory.

The results of some of that labor can be seen in the stunning winning entries of the Audubon Photography Awards. Each of these photos perfectly captures the sheer power of birds.

If music or poetry is more your thing, I invite you to listen to some of the songs and poems inspired by birds in For the Birds: The Birdsong Project. This project, the brainchild of Grammy Award-winning and Emmy Award-nominated music supervisor Randall Poster and his friend, the producer Rebecca Reagan, celebrates the beauty that birds bring into our lives—and the need to protect them—with an outpouring of creativity by more than 200 artists including Yoko Ono and Andrew Bird. All proceeds from the project benefit Audubon. 

However birds capture your imagination, I hope that your summer is full of their beauty.

This piece originally ran in the Summer 2022 issue. To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.