Birds provide a variety of tasks in healthy ecosystems, thus conserving bird diversity helps everyone. Birds improve our quality of life. Watching them flit about a backyard feeder or hop through the grass may be entertaining, and uplifting, and provide insight into animal behavior. Observing our avian counterparts helps us connect with nature and serves as a reminder that we coexist with wildlife. Behind the scenes, birds give us various benefits known as “ecosystem services.”
The services refer to everything from the essential provision of food and oxygen to more nuanced benefits, such as how wetlands reduce storm and flood damage. Labeling these natural processes as “services” makes it easier for ecologists and conservationists to assess the value of nature (sometimes in monetary terms) and what we lose as a result of environmental degradation.
For fun fact readers, the top 10 smallest birds in the world is a very good topic to read and enjoy.
Birds play important roles across ecosystems, and their survival is vital for both humans and the environment, which we will discuss in the following paragraphs:
Their Feces: Good Fertilizer
Bird droppings, often known as guano, serve a significant role in nutrient distribution, particularly among seabirds. After months of devouring fish and other sea creatures on the high seas, they come to shore and form massive colonies of hundreds or thousands. When seabirds bring their full stomachs onshore and poop, they concentrate nutrients in large amounts on their coastal nesting grounds.
Every summer, Dovekies go to northwest Greenland to breed in considerable numbers. They transmit an estimated 3,500 tons of nitrogen, an essential component of plants, from the ocean to land. All of that nitrogen supports local grass growth in the otherwise barren Arctic landscape, feeding grazers such as hares, geese, reindeer, and muskox, which are hunted for food.
It is general knowledge that birds carry seeds. They devour their preferred berries and then leave seed-strewn droppings, ensuring that new plants grow. Recently, scientists discovered that some birds enjoy exploring for profitable fungi. Chucao Tapaculos and Black-throated Huet-hunts hunt truffles in Patagonian woods. When they dig up a fungus, consume it, and move on to the next one, they distribute spores, resulting in a variety of tasty mushrooms.
This does more than simply boost the birds’ food supply. Truffles are the fruiting bodies of a sophisticated underground fungal network that helps neighboring plants survive. Underground fungal filaments transport nutrients to tree roots in exchange for sugar. The mutually beneficial cooperation provides a framework for the entire forest system.
What birds eat has a big environmental impact, as does where they poop. For example, many birds are fierce pest hunters. Barn swallows can eat up to 60 insects each hour. Swallows hover over agricultural areas, preserving pest-prone crops and providing more food for humans. Installing Barn Owl boxes on farms also helps to reduce the population of pest rodents like gophers. Similarly, putting Western Bluebird nest boxes in vineyards can help preserve grapes. Promoting and protecting bird habitat is thus a feasible alternative to widely used, dangerous insecticides.
Exclusively vultures are the vertebrate animals that eat carrion. (Other scavengers, like coyotes, hunt for food.) Because vultures are so focused, they are extremely efficient at gathering scraps. According to studies, as vulture populations drop, the number of decaying carcasses on a landscape increases by a factor of 10, as seen in a South Carolina study. One Kenyan study found that carcasses took three times longer to decompose without vultures. More decomposing materials increase the risk of disease for humans and other animals. Next time you go on a hike and don’t see any dead deer, thank a vulture. The top 10 smallest birds in the world are such cute creatures that you won’t take your eyes off.
Seabirds eat fish, crabs, and other sea-dwelling invertebrates in the open ocean or along the beach. These birds must return to the ground to rest and place their eggs in nests. During this time, they often leave guano or droppings on the rock, cliff face, or ground where they nest. Bird droppings are high in nutrients like nitrogen, an excellent fertilizer for plants and coral reefs.