One of the programs that Conejo Valley Audubon is involved with is called LAWNS TO HABITAT. It has been working with local residents for the past several years to create urban oases for birds. Why are birds so important that we would be involved with this?
- Pest Management: fifty percent of birds consume mostly insects during their life and nearly seventy-five percent eat insects at least occasionally. Native plants support the type of bugs that our local breeding birds need to successfully raise a brood of chicks.
- Seed Dispersal: approximately 25% of all native seed plants in the world are dispersed by birds. Seed dispersal in turn impacts plant communities and the wildlife that live in those communities.
- Pollination: over 1,000 birds worldwide pollinate native plants. In the United States, this job falls mainly to the vari-ety of hummingbirds we have here. Think about the Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds that zip around your garden. Hummingbirds have evolved with native plants, which are best adapted to local growing seasons, climate, and soil. Hummers prefer large, tubular flowers that are often (but not always) red in color; another reason to go with native plants.
- Carcass and Waste Disposal: when thinking about your favorite bird, it’s possible that the Turkey Vulture is not on the top of your list, but they are uniquely adapted to dispose of dead animals. To understand this benefit, think about how these animals be-came food for vultures. Some may have died from vehicle collisions or other human-related causes, but a number of the carcasses vultures feed upon are victims of disease. Generations of being an “obligate scavenger” — a term describing animals that feed almost exclusively on carrion — has developed a vulture digestive system that is highly acidic and is able to neutralize bacteria and other harmful organisms that are consumed along with decaying flesh. While this really isn’t pertinent to Lawns to Habitat, I just wanted to put in a plug for the oft-misunderstood Turkey Vulture.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of the importance of birds. We matter to the birds, too. What we do to create a space that a bird will find welcoming is something of incomparable value. We are what hope looks like to a bird.