How effective are birds in ridding your garden of unwanted pests? Consider an 1885 United States Bureau of Biological Survey study of the eating habits of wild birds. In the extensive study, the stomach contents of over sixty thousand birds of over 400 species were examined and analyzed. The results are fascinating.
Scarlet tanagers were observed in the field eating 35 gypsy moth caterpillars per minute, Nashville warblers ate three tent caterpillars per minute, and an impressive 89 plant lice per minute were consumed by one tiny yellowthroat.
When the stomach contents of a rose-breasted grosbeak were examined scientists found the remains of 14 potato bugs. A downy woodpecker had consumed 18 codling-moth larvae, a red-winged blackbird 28 cutworms, a robin 270 larvae of March-flies, and a flicker 5,000 ants.
Aren’t the quantities and diversity of harmful insects consumed amazing? Unbelievable?
Downy woodpeckers were observed eating up to 43 species of insects, horned larks 60, flickers 89, wood pewees 131, robins 223, cardinals 81, bluebirds 166, phoebes 121 and nighthawks an incredible 600 species.
It is relatively easy to attract helpful species of birds to your landscape; listed here are a few ways to lure birds into your garden:
- Situate birdbaths throughout your garden, but do not set them near bushes that provide cover for cats. Keep birdbaths clean and filled with fresh water.
- If possible, provide a running fountain or trickle of water into a shallow basin. Both the sound and the movement will attract the birds (avian misters are available in nurseries, bird stores and online).
- Plant a diverse array of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials, and concentrate on reintroducing native species.
- Mulch. A protective layer of mulch thwarts weeds, conserves moisture, and entices bugs. You’ll find lots of birds poking through and under your mulch for critters.
- Avoid using pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Poisons will destroy the beneficial soil dwellers and may sicken or even kill the birds.
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