For the Birds

I love birds, all kinds of birds, even the ones who like to bomb my car when it’s parked outside. I’m always on the lookout for the pair of hawks that live nearby, or the golden eagle that perched briefly in the oak tree behind our fence. I love to see geese flying in formation overhead, and the song birds flitting and fluttering from bush to tree to ground. And I love hummingbirds, too, with their amazing aerodynamics.

When we moved into the house, I thought I heard a bird inside our chimney. Thankfully, it wasn’t living there, and only its beautiful song echoed down from above. I told the chimney sweep about it, and was informed if a bird had nested in our (California) chimney, the law would prevent removing it. What if you need that fireplace to keep warm? I asked. You’d better hope it’s a migratory songbird that will eventually fly away. If it sticks around, you’re stuck with an unusable fireplace.

Isn’t this kind of crazy? Surely, our legislators aren’t putting a bird’s needs ahead of people who need to stay warm in winter. (I wasn’t thinking about us because we have central heating, but there are people living on the Russian River who aren’t so fortunate.)

Then the other day, I read a headline confirming birds are more important than human beings. “Protected bird and its nest stalls Bay Area bridge project”. A tiny hummingbird with egg in nest halted upgrades on the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge, a thoroughfare for thousands of daily commuters. The Anna Hummingbird is protected, and the law forbids the removal of an egg from its nest. Hence, the $70 million dollar bridge expansion has come to a halt as the Bay Area awaits the arrival of a precious, protected tiny bird small enough to sit in the palm of your hand.

The story brought me to tears.

Oh, how I wish we valued a human life as much.