As we enter a new year, it’s a joy to celebrate National Bird Day – a day dedicated to the feathered friends that grace our skies and gardens.
National Bird Day, on January 5th each year, serves as a reminder of the importance of birds in our lives. It’s a day to appreciate their beauty, diversity, and the vital role they play in our ecosystems. Birds are not only delightful to watch but also contribute significantly to our environment considerably – heres how…
1. Birds control pests – A recent study has shown that birds eat 400-500 million tons of insects a year. Birds are so efficient that nest boxes have become a pest control practice throughout Europe.
2. Birds pollinate plants – When we think pollinators, bees and butterflies flutter to mind – but bird pollinators such as hummingbirds and honeyeaters also make a big contribution, especially in high altitudes or hot climates. Their role as pollinators benefits us directly – around 5% of the plants humans use for food or medicine are pollinated by birds.
3. Birds are nature’s clean-up crew – The sight of vultures circling overhead may look foreboding, but it is both their speed of arrival (typically within an hour of death), and their thoroughness which makes them so valuable. It could be days before other less efficient scavengers, such as feral dogs or rats, arrive to pick at the remains, allowing deadly diseases to develop and spread.
4. Birds spread seeds – When birds travel, they take the seeds they have eaten with them and disperse them through their droppings. They bring plants back to ecosystems that have been destroyed, and even carry plants across the sea to new land masses. Birds have helped to shape the plant life we see around us – and around the world.
5. Birds transform entire landscapes – Habitats like forests, marshes and grasslands affect people across the whole planet, even those living hundreds of miles away – they store carbon, keep the climate stable, oxygenate the air and transform pollutants into nutrients. But without birds, many of these ecosystems may not exist. Birds maintain the delicate balance between plant and herbivore, predator and prey.
6. Birds keep coral reefs alive – Birds, especially seabirds, play a key role in cycling nutrients and helping to fertilise marine ecosystems such as coral reefs. Seabirds travel hundreds of kilometres to feed out in the ocean – and when they return, they deposit layers of highly pungent guano (seabird droppings) at their colonies. This guano leaches into the ocean and fertilises nearby communities such as coral reefs.
7. Birds inspire science – From the technology of flight, to the invention of zippers modelled on the barbules of feathers, humans have drawn inspiration from birds for centuries – Darwin’s studies of finches in the Galápagos proved instrumental in shaping his thoughts on evolution through natural selection. But birds play a more important role than just giving us ideas. Birds are widespread and respond quickly to changes in the environment. Because of this, they are our early-warning system for pressing concerns such as climate change.
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