Why Birds are Important

Why Should We Care About Birds?

(adapted from the website of the Missouri Department of Conservation: https://bit.ly/3tft2hw

It seems obvious that as birders and members of a bird club we care about birds. But not everyone around us may share our feelings. There are many reasons for caring about birds and here are several.

Birds Keep Our Ecosystems Running Smoothly

  • Birds eat insect pests that would otherwise decimate agricultural crops, gardens, and other vegetation. Birds eat 400–500 tons of insects per year.
  • Birds like crows and vultures scavenge carcasses, reducing the spread of diseases such as rabies and distemper.
  • Birds disperse seeds, spreading plants into new areas.
  • Birds such as hummingbirds help pollinate plants.
  • Birds like hawks and owls help keep the mouse and rat population in check.
  • Birds eat millions of mosquitoes and other biting insects each year.

Birds Bring Us Joy and Beauty

  • In addition to their ecosystem roles, birds are one of life’s more beautiful pleasures. Millions of people around the world enjoy watching and feeding birds. They are a gateway for many to learn more about the outdoors and nature.

Birds Help Us Know If Our Environment is Healthy 

  • Because birds are sensitive to toxins and pollutants, problems detected in wild birds can serve as an early warning system that something is wrong in the environment. Then changes can be made before the problem starts affecting humans and other animals.

Birds Are Everywhere

  • Urban or rural, in every corner of the globe, one finds birds. Wildlife watching is among the fastest growing outdoor pursuits in the United States, numbering 86 million participants in 2016 — more than half of these are birdwatchers.
  • Wildlife viewing and birding hold great promise for the future of Marylander’s experiencing and appreciating nature.

Birds Make Money

  • Birds are an economic driver.
  • Each year wildlife watchers spend more than $75 billion on travel, equipment, and other expenses.
  • In the U.S. alone, birding has created more than 600,000 jobs and billions of dollars in employment income and tax revenue (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2013).
  • Birdseed and bird feeders account for nearly $6 billion spent annually.

Birds Need Our Help

Unfortunately, many bird species are declining at alarming rates. Even species considered common are dropping sharply in number. Breeding bird surveys show population declines ranging from 30–77% since 1970 — and the numbers are still falling. Read more here: https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/bring-birds-back/

Pinpointing exact reasons is difficult. But scientists who research birds note that several widespread land use practices correspond to the declines. These include:

  •  Deadly Bird collisions with urban glass buildings
  • Bird capture by cats
  • Deforestation
  • Urban sprawl
  • Large-scale agriculture with fields of monocultures (one kind of plant)
  • Widely used pesticides poison insects that birds catch to feed their young.
  • Lack of land management to maintain needed habitat
  • These widespread changes pose major threats to the long-term health of bird populations throughout the world.

The Silver Lining

  • But it’s not all bad news. The silver lining is that we can change this!
  • The conservation community, including private landowners and the general public, can make a difference for birds — at large and small scales.
  • It is possible to significantly improve and increase habitat for many of these species within as little as a decade or two.
  • Conservation groups cannot effectively tackle all threats and habitat challenges on their own. A united effort involving agencies, organizations, and the public is necessary to reverse declining bird populations, especially the most threatened species.

Read further and learn what you can do to tackle these issues.

Other websites:

Why we need birds (far more than they need us) https://bit.ly/2RAZAER

Why Do Birds Matter? https://www.audubon.org/news/why-do-birds-matter