Sunday, February 1, 2009

Don't Eat Like a Bird by Carol King

Did you know, dear gardener, that February is National Bird Feeding Month? Yes, and it has been since January, 1994, when Congress passed a resolution making it so. And did you know that 1/3 of the adult population feeds wild birds in their yards? I hope you will join me in celebrating this event by putting out a feeder or two for our feathered friends. Wild birds are a very important component to our natural environment and if we don’t do something, a quarter of the world's bird species will likely be extinct or critically endangered by the end of the century, according to a new study by U.S. researchers.

The Wild Bird Center asks us to consider that:
- A typical backyard bird doesn't weigh as much as two nickels.
- Birds spend most of their waking hours searching for food -- without the help of "hands" and "fingers".
- They may consume 15% of their body weight overnight just keeping warm enough to survive.
- Like mail carriers, they're outside in sleet, snow, wind and cold.

Birds eat ALL THE TIME.

Birds are very important in the ecosystem: they eat weed seeds and harmful insects. They help in the pollination of plants, spread seeds around, and help dispose of dead animal carcasses. They also have great entertainment value. Human activities and habits have destroyed many of their natural sources of food so by providing food, water and shelter, we are helping them to survive.
Birds not only help to keep our world safe from plagues of insects and but perhaps actual plagues themselves. There is speculation that the increase in Lyme disease is a direct result of the demise of the passenger pigeon. Passenger pigeons used to occur in flocks of hundreds of millions of birds. They ate acorns. Deer mice, which harbor Lyme disease bacteria, eat acorns. Ticks get the disease from mice and infect humans. The pigeons would have limited the number by not leaving enough acorns to support a large population of deer mice thus keeping Lyme disease in check. The pigeons are all gone and the deer mice are thriving and humans get Lyme disease. See how this all works?

Feed your birds, dear gardener. But don’t eat like one.