About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Birds can replace pesticides

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America. As a cavity nester they will use holes in trees, buildings, or artificial nest boxes. However, their numbers have been declining nationwide for reasons that are not clear. Now farmers are turning to them to help them reduce pesticide use, and in some cases, increasing yields.

Birds of prey like kestrels can keep pests away from their crops. "Our research demonstrates that predators like American kestrels consume numerous crop pests and reduce crop damage, which are important ecosystem services," said Catherine Lindell, a scientist at MSU who led a study appearing in the current issue of the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. For example, installing nest boxes in Michigan orchards encourages feathered hunters to consume many species that cause damage to crops, including grasshoppers, rodents and European starlings.

The next steps for Lindell and other scientists are to hone in on the best practices and better measure the overall impact of specific improvements. Nest boxes, perches and making landscape enhancements that attract vertebrates work better than attracting birds through providing food resources.

"Answering these questions will increase our understanding of the interactions of predators and their prey, the ways in which these interactions provide ecosystem services, and the role of humans in encouraging these interactions," Lindell said.

Other MSU scientists contributing to the study include Rachael Eaton, Phil Howard and Steven Roels.--  Cheryl Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas@nsf.gov
--  Layne Cameron, MSU (517) 353-8819 layne.cameron@cabs.msu.edu

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