Endangered species like the Red Panda or the Whale Shark might be the glitzy stars of the conservation world, but Chris O’Dowd has thrown his support behind saving the common bird.
The redbreast not only adorns the label of the range of single malt whiskeys but is also the unofficial bird of Ireland, often seen on holiday cards perched on a branch of holly.
“We can probably learn more about what’s happening with birds more from those that are common than those that are endangered,” said O’Dowd in an interview. “It’s so hard to know what to do, in the greater scheme of things. We’re being told everything is going to collapse around you, and so you think, ‘I don’t know how to stop everything from collapsing around me, but I feel like we can help birds a bit.’”
O’Dowd grew up in Boyle, a town in County Roscommon in the northern part of the country, going to Lough Key Forest Park often.
“I don’t know whether it’s having kids or being away from home I have been drawn more and more into nature,” he said. “These are the birds I grew up around, we had loads of robin redbreasts in our garden. We often imbue the Robin Redbreast with the spirit of a dead relative. [When my grandmother died] it was very much the sensation at the funeral when a robin redbreast turned up, oh that’s granny there now. That has happened with a lot of other people I’ve talked to. There’s something spiritual about the forest creatures here.”
To raise funds for BirdLife International, O’Dowd recorded a new humorous birdwatching video with the Redbreast mascot Robin (he participated in the partnership last year as well). For every like and share the video gets, the company will donate 25 cents (up to 30,000€) to the charity. They also created a limited-edition bird feeder bottle for Redbreast 12 ($75) which has an intricately-designed red copper bird feeder to hang in a yard or garden. The company plans to donate up to 70,000€ from sales the bottle.
Christopher Sands, the global director of communications of BirdLife international, said the funds help fund global research and contribute to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. BirdLife’s recent State of the World Birds 2022 report, revealed that nearly half of all bird species are in trouble and one in eight are heading towards extinction.
“Birds are the only species monitored and reported on every year because birds are extraordinarily responsive to changes in the ecosystem around the planet,” Sands said. “Without common birds all we have are disappearing species and if we don’t protect common birds they will disappear too, there’s nothing guaranteed about their survival.”
I asked O’Dowd, who has an animated feature “My Father’s Dragon” and live action “Slumberland” debuting this month, if he prefers birds from home or those in California, where he and his family live for much of the year. Who would win in a fight, an American robin or an Irish robin redbreast?
He thoughtfully paused for quite a while and then answered “It feels strange to orchestrate a fight.”
“I don’t know if necessarily saying which bird is better is that helpful, other than saying what’s really important is that we need to create wildlife which is very welcoming to all of them,” he said laughing. “Apart from cuckoos, who can f—k off. They are nest-stealing bastards.”