<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible. </i>

It has been so cold in the morning we decided to skip “dawn patrol” for a while. We tried wearing wetsuits. They just don’t work for us. Frankly, they are not designed for our unique body type and wearing them creates way too much commotion. People freak out. They think we are some new, weird species of seal with duck lips and wild yellow hair that they discovered. It’s too weird. 

With dawn patrol on hold for a few days, we took our time with breakfast and reading the newspaper. With so much bad news lately we are still debating if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Personally, I think braving the cold might be the better choice.

When we divide up the paper, Rusty must have the comics first. This is not surprising. He also tries to convince us that dessert should be eaten before the main course. He says reading the comics first prepares him for the rest of the news. He is still working on a plausible reason to eat dessert first.

Rustling newspaper pages and Rusty’s occasional giggles over the comics were the only sounds breaking the early morning quiet. That was until I read the headline, “Climate Change A Threat To Birds,” out loud. Rusty furrowed his brow, narrowed his eyes and started grumbling and asked, “Couldn’t we have one day without more bad news involving global warming? What now?”

I cringed as I read it. It said more than a third of native California birds could vanish by the end of the 21st century. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it also stated that more than 100 species from California had already moved significantly north.

Rusty and Richard put down the paper and looked at me with alarm. Richard shook his head sadly as I continued to read. The article said winters had been getting warmer for several years and this was having a negative affect on many birds, not just those in California. They were leaving their usual wintering habitat for more hospitable areas to the north.

Richard shook his head and said, “Adding the warmer winters to habitat loss and the continued use of pesticides, I would say our bird populations are being seriously threatened.”

We waited quietly as Richard stared out the window. He was deep in thought, watching the hummingbirds and the finches at his feeders. Finally he said, “Birds are a necessity. They are our ‘canaries in the coal mine.’ Their northern movement is sending us an urgent message. They are warning us not just of critical threats to themselves, but also to habitats and systems that affect all life on earth.

Tears came to Rusty’s eyes while Richard talked. Imagining a world without birds had made him incredibly sad. He hoped Richard had an answer.

Richard’s face lit up with a plan. “There are two ways we can help,” he said. “First, we need to call or write our elected representatives and urge them to address the problem of climate change now, today. The second way is closer to home. We could all create bird-friendly habitats where we live.

He thought the timing was excellent. February is National Bird Feeding Month. The plan was falling into place.

Richard was excited about the prospect of all our friends and neighbors creating bird-friendly habitats. It would be easy. Birds need the same things we do: food, shelter (cover), water and a place to raise their young. It could start with something as simple as hanging a bird feeder in a safe location and setting out a shallow pan as a water source. In many places, existing trees and shrubs might already be providing shelter and a place to raise young. This could work!

I typed up a flyer to pass out in the neighborhood telling everyone about National Bird Feeding Month and how they could help, complete with Richard’s suggestions for a bird-friendly habitat.

The three of us believe that caring for birds will help us protect ourselves and the future of the world we share with them and all other living things. We can’t change the whole world today but we can make changes to our part of it. If everyone started making changes to their part today, in no time it would equal the whole world. We feel it is our duty to help wildlife and ecosystems adapt to changing conditions while we work to curb and reduce climate change itself.

For ideas and help creating a certified wildlife habitat and related info go to:

National Wildlife Federation — www.nwf.org

National Audubon Society — www.audubon.org

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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