Do Trees Need Birds?
Garden Clippings for March 23, 2019
Brother Art and I were driving down a typical Lambton County roadway when he casually said “See those Native Junipers along the road? Do you notice there are no Junipers on the other side of the road?”
It took a while for me to put two and two together. Native Junipers, often called Red Cedars, can most often be found growing in straight lines directly under power lines. Where there were no power lines overhead, there were no Red Cedars.
Birds have a habit of perching on power lines, doing nothing. And when birds do nothing they poop. The poop might contain a tiny Red Cedar seed, which might land on fertile ground and might sprout. Birds may also spread seeds that have been stuck on feathers, beaks and their feet.
Proof that trees need birds as much as birds need trees. We all know that birds need trees for shelter and food, but we don’t easily recognize that trees are dependant on birds.
Birds are perfect seed dispersers. Birds will travel for miles spreading seeds from place to place, ensuring that the forest is constantly being replenished with new trees. Some tree species will not sprout their seeds unless birds have broken their seed hull, a process called scarification.
Birds are also perfect pollinators. We often associate bees and bugs with pollination but there are many birds that will do the same job. Pollination is essential for fruit production, which in turn is essential for seed production.
Perhaps the greatest benefit that trees and plants receive from birds is their pest control services. Birds are always busy eating everything from caterpillars to boring insects, and if the birds were not doing their pest control duties, trees would suffer from bug infestation.
Researchers have found that birds have contributed significantly to the reduction of Emerald Ash Borer populations. Unfortunately, not enough to eradicate the pest. In many parts of the world, coffee growers are hugely dependant on birds to control pests in coffee plants.
It has recently been found that birds, especially Bluebirds play a vital role in controlling insect pests in vineyards. Grape growers are discovering that placing bird feeding boxes throughout their vineyards is more effective than applying pesticides.
When I go blueberry picking, I see they have put up a massive network of poles and netting in order to keep the birds out. They also shoot noise canyons to scare off our feathered friends. No doubt, all to keep the precious ripe fruit intact. Makes me wonder if birds are a friend or enemy of blueberry growers.