Scientists believe that modern humans arose about 200,000 years ago, but only reaching recognizable behavioral traits about 50,000 years ago. While modern birds arose more than 100 million years ago according to molecular evidence. So I imagine the birds might feel you are the one mucking about in their world. But let’s take a closer look to see if there is a reason we should care about birds.
10 things birds do for us:
1. Eat pests: Birds are technologically advanced, highly motivated, extremely efficient, and cost-effective, insect-pest controllers. Native Americans lured Purple Martins into their villages by hanging up gourds with holes cut in the sides. It's estimated that martins each eat over a thousand winged insects in a day. Long ago farmers also knew how owls ate mice, bluebirds and swallows ate bugs in the fields, chicken and grouse ate fleas and ticks and encouraged the birds to live nearby. Just as smart people today still put up bird houses to reduce the bug population in their yards.
2. Pollinate: Animals provide pollination services for over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed human kind and for 90% of all flowering plants in the world. In addition to countless bees, butterflies, and other invertebrates, birds and mammals also serve as pollinators. Hummingbirds pollinate wildflowers that help recolonize deforested areas and prevent erosion. And according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, orioles serve as "important pollinators for some tree species, transferring the pollen from flower to flower on their heads."
3. Disperse seeds: Some plants take advantage of birds pooping all over the place to disperse their seeds. The loss of birds could change plant communities and lead to the local loss of particular plant species. Imagine no hot sauce on your burrito. The seeds of Capsicum plants are predominantly dispersed by birds and many of the food products featuring capsaicin include hot sauce, salsa, and beverages. And a single Blue Jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles away by carrying several nuts at one time in their esophagus. As a result the rapid northward dispersal of oaks after the ice age may have resulted from the northern transport of acorns by jays.
Unite a nation: The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. In 1789 George Washington became our Nation's first President and the American Bald Eagle became our Country's official bird. President John F. Kennedy later wrote: "The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
5. Help win wars: The study of wild birds’ many survival techniques has been integral to the establishment of many military improvements. Birds taught the military about camouflage, flight, sentry systems, and during World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages.
6. Save people: The classic example of animals serving as sentinels is the "canary in the coal mine". Well into the 20th century, coal miners in the United Kingdom and the United States brought canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases including methane and carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive, would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape or put on protective respirators. So during the 1960s, when birds of prey began dying, people were alerted to the dangers of agricultural chemicals such as DDT. Birds act as "sentinels" for environmental health hazards by providing early warning of human health hazards in the environment.
7. Promote conservation and environmentalism: The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, went into a catastrophic decline in numbers and then extinction by 1914 due to over hunting. The senseless slaughter of the passenger pigeon aroused public interest in the conservation movement and resulted in new laws and practices which have prevented many other species from going extinct.
8. Feed people: Eggs and meat from birds have sustained people for centuries.
9. Clothe and comfort: Feathers provide fashion, warmth, and comfortable cushion.
10. Entertain: The antics of our garden birds keep us amused and may inspire future scientists to make further discoveries about these ancient creatures that might one day save the world.
Bird watching is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages. Currently one third of the U.S. populations feed wild birds. It can be enjoyed almost anywhere at any moment of the day. If you have any more questions, I can answer them in the blog or you can come into our Wild Birds Unlimited shops for help.
- Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace? http://t.co/Br4EnlB
- Colorful Bird Splats Contain Secrets http://bit.ly/rIFQ2w
- The Bald Eagle is the National Symbol of the USA: http://bit.ly/tCORyh
- Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://t.co/OmIn8Nw
- War Pigeon Remembered http://t.co/5yiXSNS
- Santayana's Law of Repetitive Consequences: Loss of the Passenger Pigeon http://bit.ly/sUPlXj