Feisty: Alli Byrd notes the details of a tufted titmouse during the Terre Haute Bird Festival at Dobbs Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Austen Leake
Feisty: Alli Byrd notes the details of a tufted titmouse during the Terre Haute Bird Festival at Dobbs Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Austen Leake
In an effort to get Terre Haute certified as an Indiana Bird Town (not that Bird), the Wabash Valley Audubon Society and Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department hosted the inaugural Terre Haute Bird Festival at Dobbs Park on Saturday afternoon.

Modeled after the Tree City USA program, Bird Town Indiana aims to recognize groups that promote an active and ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of bird populations and their habitats. 

Wabash Valley Audubon Society president Morgan Chaney said an annual bird festival was the only thing holding Terre Haute back from being recognized, and so her organization and Terre Haute Parks partnered to launch the event.

Attendees were treated to a host of activities, including birding hikes, live bird shows, bird netting demonstrations and crafts. But at the heart of it all, Chaney said, is sharing the beauty of birds and impressing on people how their choices impact the environment.

“We have to be more conscious of the decisions we make,” Chaney said. “Simple things, really, like don’t feed birds bread. You can feed them healthy things, like half grapes or cracked corn, but people need to know these things.”

Mark Booth, executive director of Take Flight! Wildlife Education, echoed Chaney’s sentiment, saying educating people about the decisions they make and how they effect the environment is critical to sustaining a healthy ecosystem.

“The very definition of a healthy ecosystem is biodiversity,” Booth said. “If people don’t know about these animals or appreciate their role, we’ll all die.”

But just the word conservation can turn some people off, Booth said. And so engaging them in conservation education in entertaining ways is often the way to go.

“The first step toward proper conservation is education. The first step toward proper education is entertainment,” Booth said. “If we make the education endearing by showing them how neat birds are, then you can approach them and say, ‘If you think birds are neat, you should see these snakes, or these worms or these plants.’

“The more we can get people to learn, the more we can teach them. But until we learn as species that protecting ecosystems helps us more than that new factory or housing development, we’ll going to continue to use too much and run out of these finite resources.”

And even if birds aren’t your thing, said Carissa Lovett, vice president of the Audubon Society and naturalist at Dobbs Park Nature Center, people should understand that all of nature works in harmony. 

“Birds are a keystone species, and that means if you start to see their numbers decline something is wrong,” Lovett said. “If we don’t have a healthy population of birds our insect population would be out of control. We’d have insects coming out of our ears.

“And if insects are out of control, agricultural costs go up. So, in a way, doing things that harm the environment will cost you later. It all goes together.”

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