What birds are up against

Not everyone appreciates avifauna the way we do

After seeing “Monty and Rose” and “Monty and Rose 2,” people often ask what they can do to help birds and endangered species in particular. I often suggest planting or tending to native habitat because that’s what helped bring Piping Plovers back to Chicago.

But at one screening last year, an attendee had a different perspective. She asked the opposite question: “What do we do if more rare birds show up and want to nest on our volleyball courts?” If you know the Monty and Rose story, you know that their second nest in 2019 was on the volleyball courts at Montrose Beach. Her thought was what could we do to stop random birds from arriving and disrupting volleyball and other recreational activities.

This was a new one for me. I love sports, too, but I’d gladly give up a playing field if it meant more room for wildlife. After all, Piping Plovers were using these beaches for centuries, before Chicago was a metropolis and before the landscaping of the lakefront. But the commenter actually saw the little, super-adorable, super-rare Piping Plovers…as a threat. I’m not naïve enough to believe this type of view didn’t exist, but I did have the thought of “Did you just watch the film?”

I tried to play it off as much as I could and replied with something along the lines of, “we want the Piping Plovers here since this was their beach before it was ours.” There are plenty of other locations where people can play volleyball or—insert your favorite sport here. 

This type of mindset is what birds are up against. You can see it in the row over Bell Bowl Prairie in Rockford and in the volleyball fan’s comment. Birds are often viewed as an inconvenience. In the case of the Great Lakes Piping Plover, it’s the recreational uses of beaches that dropped their numbers all the way down to about a dozen pairs 30 years ago.

That’s why I persist in sharing these stories, whether it be through this newsletter or through the films about Monty and Rose. You don’t have to travel to the Amazon or the Serengeti to experience incredible natural phenomena. These stories are right here in our backyards, and they’re often overlooked. 

While this newsletter is just one tiny corner of cyberspace, it does make a difference. Take the Chicago Park District’s decision to expand the Montrose Beach Dunes Natural Area by 3.1 acres earlier this year. It took some public encouragement, including a TWiB piece in the Sun-Times, but we got there. And the post I did on Bell Bowl has been shared more than 40 times on Facebook and counting.

Birds need a voice. You can be an even bigger part of that by becoming a paid subscriber to this newsletter and helping to ensure its future. I hope you’ll consider taking this next step for birds today.