Why Birds Matter In 2018

Download Audio
A chipping sparrow sits on a fence post in New Jersey. (Brian Amaral/WBUR)
A chipping sparrow sits on a fence post in New Jersey. (Brian Amaral/WBUR)

With guest host Jane Clayson.

Novelist and birding enthusiast Jonathan Franzen joins us to talk about the beauty, wonder and threats facing the world’s birds.

We also have David O'Neill of the National Audubon Society and John Fitzpatrick of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, two of the groups that are behind a big push to make 2018 the "Year of the Bird."

Clip from this show: To get people to care about the environment more broadly, Jonathan Franzen shows them birds.


Jonathan Franzen, author of the novels "Purity," "The Corrections" and "Freedom" and essayist of the recent National Geographic piece "Why Birds Matter."

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

David O'Neill, chief conservation officer at the National Audubon Society.

From The Reading List:

National Geographic: Why Birds Matter, And Are Worth Protecting -- "A few years ago in a forest in northeast India, I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing. It sounded meteorological, but it was the wingbeats of a pair of great hornbills flying in to land in a fruiting tree. They had massive yellow bills and hefty white thighs; they looked like a cross between a toucan and a giant panda. As they clambered around in the tree, placidly eating fruit, I found myself crying out with the rarest of all emotions: pure joy. It had nothing to do with what I wanted or what I possessed. It was the sheer gorgeous fact of the great hornbill, which couldn’t have cared less about me."

An estimated 48 million Americans are birders. The acclaimed novelist and essayist Jonathan Franzen is one of them. He’s out with a new piece in National Geographic about “why birds matter” to mark 2018 as the Year of the Bird. It’s a celebration of these colorful wild animals that fill the air with song. But some birds are in decline. All are at risk. Their protections weakened, habitats shrinking. This hour, On Point: Why birds matter. --Jane Clayson

This program aired on January 5, 2018.


More from On Point

Listen Live