Because of a bird, my eyes opened to the big-wide world around me in such a marvelous way. I have always been a nature girl. But you know that scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where the Grinch’s heart suddenly grows and bursts and he feels love and wonder and his life changes? THAT’S what happened to me once. Because of a bird.
When I witnessed a hummingbird mama craft her wee cup nest outside my kitchen window, it was an “aha” moment for me.
She built it upon a carved, wooden mobile I acquired in Mexico. Every few minutes she’d come and go and land upon that mobile. It was a curious thing to watch this behavior—and at first I wasn’t certain why she kept perching on this hanging art. But then, little by little, a tiny nest formed. A NEST!
This particular hummingbird mama sparked the idea for my book, Mama Built a Little Nest—it got me thinking about bird nests in general. They are all so different, structurally! Birds create the most variety of homes of any wild animal. Their nests often defy gravity, natural elements, weather, and predators—and birds design them without the use of hands or opposable thumbs. Remarkable engineers. And who knew it took a hummingbird over a week to craft such a wee cup that can expand as her chicks grow? I was hooked.
I began immersing my life into the lives of birds: observing them, documenting behavior, learning all I could—reading scientific journals, keeping abreast with the latest research through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program). Who knew that birds need our help in so many ways? I didn’t.
The livelihood of birds is threatened by habitat loss, pollution, pesticide use, drying water sources, climate change, outdoor cats, and death/injury caused by human structures, namely window strikes. Did you know close to a billion birds are killed each year in the U.S. alone just by window strikes? Many of these birds are neotropical migratory songbirds, flying by night, that have traveled thousands of miles to their nesting grounds in the North America.
I engage with the avian world every day and do my part to help them as I can. My husband and I know the birds on our property personally; they are like extended family to us. We greet each migration season as a cause for celebration, eagerly anticipated arrivals and departures.
My work as an author covers many topics, including humor in addition to science, but birds are a reoccurring theme with my writing and a true source of inspiration. For that, I am ever grateful to them. Forthcoming bird-themed books of mine include the parenting book, I Love Birds! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander and Explore Birds with Kids, and How to Find a Bird.
Birds are a true barometer to the health of our planet. We need them and must be aware of the steep decline in their numbers taking place and the human-caused challenges they face. Please visit FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program), the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to learn more.
Jennifer Ward is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for children and adults. Her home is nestled among the treetops of old growth oak forest in Illinois, where she wakes up each morning to bird song and writes full-time. www.jenniferwardbooks.com