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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Call to Action: Make the Planet a Safer Place

Dear Sarah, Here is a little note I would like to suggest for your newsletter. Thank you for everything you do! - Faina

Thank you for sharing your concerns. I've always believed birds are the best at natural pest control. I've posted your Call-to-Action for everyone to think about their yard and if what they are adding in to environment is really necessary:

This is summer time, and it means babies, babies, and more babies for our beloved birds. At the same time it means gardening and lawn maintenance.

Most people want to have lush, green lawn, a carpet of thick grass. Unfortunately it means that we use fertilizers and pesticides.

It is very good and generous to feed wild birds year round, but it is not enough. Most song birds have to feed insects to their young to raise them successfully. And there are beautiful birds people tend to forget: swallows, purple martins, and swifts. These birds are aerial insectivores, they catch insects in flight, and they are strictly insectivorous.

In recent years lawn maintenance businesses became quite aggressive in promotion of mosquito spray. Offers to protect a lawn from mosquitoes are very numerous, flyers come in mail and are tucked to the front doors.

As much as I dislike to be mosquito dinner, or to get some virus from a mosquito bite, there is a bigger issue to consider. There is no such thing as  ‘mosquito spray’ that kills only mosquitoes. Mosquito spray is an insecticide that kills all the other insects as well. The pesticides used to kill mosquitoes end in the ground water, and, eventually, in marshes, ponds, rivers and all other bodies of water. If this ‘mosquito war’ continues we will start loosing our birds, they will not be able to raise their young. Or the new generations will be too weak to survive the winter or migration, even with the support of bird feeders.

The birds that we do not see on our bird feeders actually suffer the most. Recent research shows[1] that aerial insectivores require a diet of aquatic and/or semiaquatic insects (insects that spend the larva stage of their life in water) for proper function and to raise healthy chicks. Aquatic and semiaquatic insects provide these birds with long–chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), fatty acids absent in terrestrial insects. Bodies of these birds are poorly equipped to metabolise fatty acids present in terrestrial insects. If the chicks of these birds do not have enough LCPUFA in their diet, their growth is stunted,  immune and nervous systems are compromised.

The widespread use of insecticides leads to disappearance of the number of aquatic and semiaquatic insects. Not only mosquitoes disappear, but dragonflies, mayflies, lacewings, and many more insects as well. 

Considering the fact that the cumulative area of private, corporate and municipal lawns in the US is almost equal to the area taken by agriculture, we have a looming environmental disaster, disappearance of number of birds if we do not stop killing insects. 

I would like to ask all bird lovers to make their lawns no–spray lawns, and use personal mosquito protection instead of ‘mosquito spray’, and encourage their neighbors to do the same.

[1] Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids support aerial insectivore performance more than food quantity. Cornelia W. Twininga,1, J. Thomas Brennab, Peter Lawrenceb, J. Ryan Shipleya, Troy N. Tollefsonc, and David W. Winkler aDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853;bDivision of Nutrition, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 148 and cResearch and Development, Mazuri Exotic Animal Nutrition, Purina Mills LLC, Gray Summit, MO 63039

Related Articles:
Concern about fertilizers and bluebirds' health http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2013/09/concern-about-fertilizers-and-bluebirds.html  
The Chemical-Free Lawn is Bird Friendly http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2012/02/chemical-free-lawn-is-bird-friendly.html

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