We enjoyed this thought-provoking question so much that we posed it to our entire staff in an email. The most popular answer was perhaps the most pragmatic: the Red Junglefowl (aka the chicken), chosen because of the huge number of people who benefit from their eggs and meat. Of the many other suggestions, here’s a sample:
- Birds that many people consider pest species (gulls, crows, pigeons, etc). They clean up our trash.
- Vultures, which clean up the environment and reduce disease by dining on decaying or pest-ridden carrion.
- Passenger Pigeons, which taught us a stark lesson about how destructive our species can be.
- Rock Pigeons: they can provide meat, their poop can be composted as fertilizer, and they can be used for messaging—leading at least one staff member to suggest they’re even more useful than earth-bound chickens. Project PigeonWatch is a citizen science project that encourages people to watch these remarkable birds.
- Insectivorous birds (including many songbirds), because of their amazing role in controlling insect populations that otherwise consume our food, timber, and other agricultural products. Insect outbreaks can destroy hundreds of millions of hectares and incur millions of dollars in losses.
- And last but not least, the stork. Without it, Homo sapiens would have gone extinct millennia ago!
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