Birds are endlessly entertaining. I could watch them for hours. However, birds are more than simply silhouettes in the sky or creatures with melodious songs. They provide ecological benefits that are vitally important to humans.

You will find birds in almost every habitat around the world. They're found in countrysides, small towns, and large cities. Wherever you go, you'll find evidence of their presence even if the birds are nesting or hiding. You might spot the remnants of a nest or find holes in a tree that were made by a bird pecking insects out of the bark. These indicators often appear insignificant, but the activities of birds in a location will have a profound impact on the ecosystems there. This makes them extremely important to the overall healthy functioning of the environment.

Birds offer a number of direct benefits to humans. One of the most important of these is nutrient cycling. Because of their activities and travels throughout different habitats, birds move nutrients from one location to another. This is especially important in areas where plant growth is limited because of a determinate availability of nutrients. For example, bird guano provides many nutrients for the soil and has other positive effects when it comes to both the quality and quantity of plant growth in a location.

The importance of birds to an ecosystem can be illustrated by cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), the dominant type of grass found in salt marshes of the southeast United States. A snail called the salt marsh periwinkle is a primary predator of this grass. If these snails are not eaten by birds and the population kept in check, they will consume far too much cogongrass. This would most likely result in the conversion of a healthy, productive marsh into little more than a huge mudflat. Predation by snails controls their numbers which, in turn, helps ensure that the primary purpose of salt marshes is protected. Several species of birds eat these snails and help control their population, thus preventing total eradication of the grass. Wetlands are considered among the most valuable natural habitats in existence and provide important ecological services such as filtering polluted water and stabilizing the shoreline. The presence of birds in these habitats means that particular ecosystems will continue to function in a healthy manner and we can continue to enjoy the maximum benefits provided by these valuable ecosystems.

Of course, birds benefit home gardens, small farms, and large agricultural areas as well. They have a voracious appetite for pests that damage crops. As a result of fewer insects, birds help eliminate a need for the use of larger quantities of pesticides and poisons. For example, the presence of raptors in an area is directly proportionate to the number of rodents found there and helps reduce serious diseases carried by vermin.

During their travels, birds spread seeds everywhere they travel. The seeds sprout and can become established which helps provide reforestation and reclamation of areas that have been devastated by fires.

Because birds are so common in most places, they can often be taken for granted and their major importance overlooked. But we could not survive long or well without the benefits birds provide. It behooves us to help them survive in whatever ways we can. Providing even minimal assistance to our feathered friends will come back to benefit us in many ways in the long run.


All photos were taken in my yard and are mine.