Socio-Cultural Significance of Birds

[Photograph: iStockphoto]

Birds have figured prominently in human culture and societies since prehistoric times and have served as a source of inspiration for creative endeavors. Our enduring fascination with birds extends to different aspects of culture and society, as the following examples show:

Birds of the Southwest Region

Cactus Wren [Photo: John J. Mossesso, NBII Life]
Cactus Wren
[Photo: John J. Mossesso, NBII Life]

Birds are vertebrates of the taxonomic class Aves. Thought of as "warm-blooded," birds are endotherms, meaning they are able to regulate their own body temperature independently of the temperature of their surroundings. Bird characteristics include feathers, wings, and a reproduction strategy of laying and incubating eggs. A wide variety of bird species inhabit the Southwest region, including many migratory birds that require conservation efforts.

Bird Species of Greatest Conservation Need
Two hundred and twenty-four bird species have been identified in state wildlife action plans as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN) for the Southwest Region, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The Southwest Species of Greatest Conservation Need interactive application brings together resources on these 224 GCN bird species and other GCN taxa from multiple authoritative sources including the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) and NatureServe.

Rusty Blackbird [Photo: Ted Ardley] Focal Birds
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Migratory Bird Program's Focal Species Strategy identifies migratory bird species in need of focused conservation action. Learn more about Focal Bird Species in the Southwest Region.

Ecological Role of Birds

Birds provide important ecological services that contribute to maintaining ecosystem processes and some of the necessary conditions on which humans and other organisms depend. These services range from food provisioning to modification of habitats and resource flows in biological communities. Bird declines can have negative impacts on ecosystems, and their sensitivity to environmental change often lends them as useful indicators of environmental quality.

For overviews on the ecological role of birds, see the articles by Whelan and colleagues (2008) and by Sekercioglu (2006). Examples of ecological services and functions birds perform include:

Bird Resources for the Southwest Region
Showing 10 of 24 ( Show All )
CollapseAll About Birds: Clark's Nutcracker
Description: The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology "All About Birds" program is an extensive resource about birds, with birding tips, identification guides, suggested birding spots, and species accounts. This species account describes the Clark's nutcracker, a highly specialized pine seed feeder in high elevation forests of the western United States. The account includes the nutcracker's size, appearance, sound, range, habitat, food, and behavior, as well as maps and photographs.
Resource Type: Life Histories and Species Profiles
Resource Format: URL
Publisher: Cornell University
ExpandBiota Information System of New Mexico
ExpandColorado Field Ornithologists: Colorado County Birding
ExpandColorado Listing of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife Species and Species of Special Concern
ExpandDigital Desert Library
ExpandEndangered and Threatened Animals of Utah (PDF)
ExpandField List of the Birds of Nevada
ExpandNatural Diversity Information Source (NDIS) Long-billed Curlew Page
ExpandNatural Diversity Information Source (NDIS) Snowy Plover Page
ExpandNew Mexico Avian Conservation Partners: Sprague's Pipit

Featured Bird Conservation Resource

Bird Conservation Node
[Image: NBII]

The NBII Bird Conservation Node provides electronic access to North American bird population and habitat data maintained by a broad coalition of federal, state, and non-governmental partners. These data resources are vital to the planning and evaluation of science-based bird conservation strategies. Assembling these resources is an important step toward coordination of bird conservation.

The NBII Bird Conservation Node is a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and the U.S. Geological Survey Center for Biological Informatics.

Taxonomy Helper

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)


    Kingdom: Animalia
    Division: Chordata
    Subdivision: Vertebrata
    Class: Aves

Economic Value of Wild Birds

Estimates on how much birds contribute to our economy reflect only a fraction of their value, because the monetary value of ecological and socio-cultural services birds provide has not been quantified. Wild birds have been part of trading and economic activity throughout history. In the United States, severe bird population declines in the early 1900s due to commercial activities led to passage of legislation restricting commercial trade of birds and their parts.

Today, recreational activities account for most of the commercial revenues generated by wild birds in the US. To learn more about the economic impact of bird-related recreational activities see:

The NBII Program is administered by the Biological Informatics Program of the U.S. Geological Survey
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