All Birds Are Winners
Common Ravens, Banff NP, Alberta. Photo: Colleen Gara/Audubon Photography Awards


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All Birds Are Winners

For us, every day is a good day to talk about birds.

It's no secret that most of us here at Motherboard love birds. There's no particular explanation for it. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we just all ended up like this.

For us, every day is a good day to talk about birds. For many other people, birds might just be pesky buggers that crap on your car or dive bomb your lunch at the park. But birds are so much more than flying feather-bags, and I couldn't call myself a fan of them if I didn't try to convince you otherwise.


Today on Earth Day, however, we should all remind ourselves that healthy birds mean a healthy planet. Birds are "indicator species," which means their well-being accurately reflects the vitality of the habitats they occupy. And just like canaries in a coal mine, wild birds all across the world are telling us the same thing: Earth's ecosystems are withering and dying at an unprecedented rate, thanks to climate change.

Globally, 1,300 bird species are on the verge of extinction thanks to rapid losses of biodiversity, according BirdLife International. That's one in eight species at risk of disappearing. The scope of their demise stretches across all ends of the planet, from wetlands, to tropical islands, to arid deserts, and even the Antarctic. In 2014, one of the most comprehensive surveys of US bird populations reported that habitat loss due to development and climate change, invasive species, and pollution were the primary threats to wild birds' survival.

My own home, Hawaiʻi, is known as the "extinction capital of the world." Of our 140 native honeycreeper species—vibrant and beautiful birds, as unique as the islands on which they evolved—half are now extinct. I remember going on hikes into Oahu's lush rainforests with my classmates and learning how to listen for the honeycreepers' songs. We rarely heard them. But we'd still spend all day with our eyes and ears to the skies, because we knew this could be our last chance to see one before the honeycreeper vanished into history forever.


The environmentalist John Harrison, who once worked with the Hawaiʻi Audubon Society, described the 1987 recordings of the last known oʻo aʻa: a lone male. "It called for two or three years, then no more," he said.

But right now, conservationists around the world are fighting the good fight for birds. Organizations like the National Audubon Society have made it their mission to spread positive awareness, spearhead conservation efforts, and lobby lawmakers for policies that are beneficial to birds and their habitats.

One of my favorite things that Audubon does is showcase some seriously brilliant photography. Which is appropriate, considering its namesake. Yesterday, Audubon announced the winners of the 2016 Audubon Photography Awards, and there's no better way (in my opinion) to celebrate Earth Day than by letting yourself get lost in these photos of the wild, wonderful world of birds.

Grand Prize Winner Bonnie Block

Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron, Seabeck, WA. Photo: Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards

Professional Winner Dick Dickinson

Osprey, Siesta Key, Sarasota, FL. Photo: Dick Dickinson/Audubon Photography Awards

Amateur Winner Steve Torna

Eared Grebes, Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone, NP, Wyoming. Photo: Steve Torna/Audubon Photography Awards

Youth Winner Carolina Anne Fraser

Great Frigatebirds, Near Española, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Photo: Carolina Anne Fraser/Audubon Photography Awards

Fine Art Winner Barbara Driscoll

Green Violetear, Savegre Hotel, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo: Barbara Driscoll/Audubon Photography Awards

Amateur Honorable Mention Artur Stankiewicz

Black-winged Stilt, Salt pans near Skala Kallonis, Lesbos Island, Greece. Photo: Artur Stankiewicz/Audubon Photography Awards

Amateur Honorable Mention Colleen Gara

Common Ravens, Banff NP, Alberta. Photo: Colleen Gara/Audubon Photography Awards

Fine Art Honorable Mention Blake Shaw

Turkey Vultures, Near San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. Photo: Blake Shaw/Audubon Photography Awards

Amateur Honorable Mention Martin V. Sneary

Piping Plovers, North shore of Massachusetts. Photo: Martin Sneary/Audubon Photography Awards