Environmental Impact of Birds

August 3, 2018

Environmental Impact of Birds

Birds add life, sound and color to our lives. Watching wild birds is often a diversion from the pressures of our daily lives. We even value birds that we personally will never see; it is comforting and uplifting just knowing that our world includes birds that can offer joy in our lives. Birds provide intangible aesthetic enjoyment and enrich our lives with their presence. This intangible value comes from knowing our world is still large and healthy enough to support a variety of bird species.

Birds are recognized as one of the most important indicators of the state of the environment. Because they are sensitive to habitat change and because they are easy to census, birds are the ecologist's favorite tool.Changes in bird populations are often the first indication of environmental problems. Whether ecosystems are managed for agricultural production, wildlife, water, or tourism, success can be measured by the health of birds.

A decline in bird numbers tells us that we are damaging the environment through habitat fragmentation and destruction, pollution and pesticides, introduced species, and many other impacts. Birds are a part of the balance of nature.There is strong interdependence between all living things in the gigantic web of life and the removal of even the smallest form of life may in time endanger the entire structure.

The conditions of clean air, food, healthy plants and safe places to raise young that make good homes for birds and other wildlife, also make good homes for people. If you decide to have a pet bird you need to make sure to protect them since bird are important to our environment.

A habitat good for birds is a good environment for people. In addition to the joys they bring to people's lives, birds are also valuable for economic reasons. Birds have ecological value as important elements of natural systems. Birds provide insect and rodent control, plant pollination, and seed dispersal which result in tangible benefits to people.


Birds and the Ecosystem

Birds are obviously important members of manyecosystems . They are integral parts of food chains and food webs.

In a woodland ecosystem for example, some birds get their food mainly from plants. Others chiefly eat small animals, such as insects or earthworms.

Birds and bird eggs, in turn, serve as food for such animals as foxes, raccoons, and snakes. The feeding relationships among all the animals in an ecosystem help prevent any one species from becoming too numerous. Birds play a vital role in keeping this balance of nature. In addition to being important parts of food webs, birds play other roles within ecosystems.

Birds eat insects. They are a natural way to control pests in gardens, on farms, and other places. A group of birds gliding through the air can easily eat hundreds of insects each day. Insect eating birds include warblers, bluebirds and woodpeckers.

Nectar-feeding birds are important pollinators, meaning they move the pollen from flower to flower to help fertilize the sex cells and create new plants. Hummingbirds, sun birds, and the honey-eaters are common pollinators.

Many fruit-eating birds help disperse seeds. After eating fruit, they carry the seeds in their intestines and deposit them in new places. Fruit-eating birds include mockingbirds, orioles, finches and robins.

Birds are often important to island ecology. In New Zealand, the kereru and kokako are important browsers, or animals that eat or nibble on leaves, tender young shoots, or other vegetation. Seabirds add nutrients to soil and to water with their production of guano, their dung.


Birds in a Changing Climate:

Birds have been a prominent feature of life on Earth for eons. The adaptations commonly associated with this group of animals, such as feathers, hollow bones, and air sacs, evolved in piecemeal fashion almost as soon as dinosaurs arose over 230 million years ago. Present day birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, a lineage that includes Tyrannosaurs and Velociraptor. Around 150 million years ago during the late Jurassic, Archaeopteryx, considered a transitional form between dinosaurs and birds, first took to the skies. This opened up a vacant niche for these animals and evolution advanced rapidly, eventually giving rise to the 10,000 known bird species living today.

Despite this ancient history, birds today face an increasing number of threats to their existence, especially from anthropogenic climate change. While some of these seem relatively minor, experts predict that climate change could send more than half of the bird species in North America to join their ancestors in extinction. A thorough understanding of the ways in which climate change can impact birds is essential in predicting extinction risk and in developing possible mitigation strategies.


Climate Change:

To assess how climate change will impact birds, exploring how the planet is actually changing is a prudent first step. Climate change is predominately driven by increases in greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were 280 ppm. Today levels have increased by about 30% to 370 ppm. This level is greater than it has been at any point in the last 800,000 years and possibly greater than it has been over the past 20 million years.

In addition to this increase in magnitude, the current rate of increase is at least 100 times faster than it has been at any point in the last 600,000 years and this rate may be unprecedented in the history of the planet.These greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere have resulted in a global temperature increase of 1 over the past century.

Two thirds of that increase has occurred over the last twenty-five years at an increasingly fast rate of 0.3-0.4 per decade. Temperatures in the Arctic have increased more than twice that of the rest of the planet. Average global temperatures are expected to increase more than 2 by the end of the century. An obvious consequence of this warming is a hotter climate in many regions of the globe.

Climate change will also cause prolonged droughts and wildfires in many arid regions, such as the southwestern United States. Tropical regions will see an increase in the intensity and frequency of hurricanes.

This will incur flooding as well as damages from high winds. Sea level is projected to rise as glaciers melt, eroding beaches and coasts. While the ocean warms, it will also become more acidic as it takes up an increasing amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These changes will dramatically change many habitats, with important consequences for the birds that rely on them for survival.


Phenology

Climate change has already been documented to impact the phenology, or timing of natural events, of birds. Because temperatures serves as a trigger for many species to undertake important events like migration or reproduction, shifts in temperatures can change when these activities take place. A good example of how this can impact birds comes from a long-term study of great tits (Parus major) in Europe. These birds time reproduction to when prey will be most abundant for nestlings, as those raised during peak prey abundance are heavier and have increased survival rates. Their main prey consists of caterpillars in oak trees, which emerge during tree bud burst in the spring, before pupating in the soil.

This leaves a narrow window in which to time reproduction to coincide with peaks in prey abundance. To accomplish this, birds use temperature as a cue to initiate reproduction.

Warmer temperatures have led birds to breeding earlier in the spring. However, temperatures have also begun increasing more rapidly over the course of the season. This means that caterpillars are emerging sooner and most birds lay clutches too late for them to take advantage of the peak in prey. In essence, the cues the birds are using to reproduce are not matching up with the peak prey availability. This can diminish reproductive output and endanger population survival.


Habitat Destruction

While some species will face shrinking ranges, others will face habitat destruction from climate change. Many birds in North America stopover in intertidal mud flats during their migrations, where they forage on invertebrates.

Sea level rise is projected to cause the loss of up to 70% of this habitat in some locations, jeopardizing the existence of these birds.

Many birds that inhabit coastal areas, such as piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), lay their eggs directly on the sand of the beach in a shallow depression. The erosion of beaches from sea level rise will decrease the availability of this nesting habitat. Larger storm surges also will cause nests to be lost to the ocean.Birds that rely on coral reefs will face similar challenges.

About one third of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is taken up by the ocean, which makes the water more acidic. Increased acidity inhibits the ability of corals to secrete calcium carbonate, which forms the structure of the reef. As a result, they become brittle and prone to breaking.

Decreased skeletal density and shrinkage in reef structure have been documented in many oceans. For many birds in the tropics, coral reefs provide an important food source and are critical habitats for their survival. The degradation of reefs from climate change poses serious risks for these birds.


Solutions

The most obvious solution to these issues would be to stop climate change, but this is extremely complicated, but economically and politically. Additionally, even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, there would be continued warming from the gases already emitted. Birds will certainly have to contend with a warmer plant in the coming years.

Habitat restoration and protection is an important step for many birds. As forests in Northern Europe shrink, creating refuges where human activities do not endanger them will maximize the habitat left available to birds in these forests. In particular, preserving large expanses of contiguous habitat will be essential for conservation.

In the Great Plains, many wetlands have been converted to agricultural fields. Restoring them back to their prior state would increase habitat for waterfowl and enable some degree of resilience against climate change.

Constructing artificial nesting sites may also lead to higher reproductive output and population growth for some species. Successful conservation strategies will rely on continued collection of data to fully understand the impacts of climate change on birds and prioritizing the habitats and populations that give species the best chance of survival.


Importance Of Birds To Humans

Birds are useful to human in the following ways like:

Food

Birds are the prime source of food for humans. They produce eggs and also meat. There are many types of birds used for meat purposes like turkey, hen, ducks, geese, quails, etc. The meat of birds is consumed as daily food in many countries depending on the type of bird available.Their meat is called white meat and unlike red meat (beef or mutton) it is said to be healthier for the heart.

Since it has less fat content, it is little safer to eat for even those with the risk of obesity and cardiac problems. Further, the eggs are part of daily meals, cakes, ice creams even among vegetarian countries. Unlike vegetarians, some eggetarians refrain from eating meat but eat eggs. Eggs are rich in protein and hence advised for consumption by patients suffering from debilitating diseases.

Economy

Birds are grown to make monetary gains. They are grown by men for business. The meat and eggs from birds are called poultry. These birds are reared in large numbers to meet the demand in markets.

They are economically very viable for poultry farmers. Since they are contributing to food, the poultry business seems to be evergreen without loses unless affected by diseases.

In Agriculture

Birds are not directly employed by man in agriculture. But they naturally serve some benefits

Pollination

Birds help in cross-pollination. They carry male gametes of one plant and drop them on to female gametes of another plant.

Thus they help in sexual reproduction plants. Besides birds, even the insects and wind serve the purpose. But birds play a prominent role. Cross-pollination helps in the formation of healthy seeds.

Fertility

Birds excreta is rich in uric acid which can readily convert to ammonia which is fertile manure to plants. The birds around the farm may contribute less to the manure. But the waste from poultry if added to the soil, it dramatically enhances the fertility.

Pest Control

Birds rely on insects and their larva to feed themselves and their babies. So during crop season, there is the wide growth of insect population due to favorable conditions. Birds keep the growth under control and help the crop from pest attack.

Rodent Control

Unlike insects, rodents are a big problem to crops. Rodents eat away the yield of the crop. Birds like eagles keep an eye on these rodents and carry away for consumption. Thus they keep the rodent growth under control which in-turn helps the farmers.

Communication

This is currently not relied upon. But in the past due to lack of technology like mobiles and emails, birds were used for communication. Pet birds like pigeons, parrots were used for communication.

They were used to deliver small letters tied around their neck to nearby villages and towns. This was a swift, reliable and inexpensive method. Since the family had some birds, they could communicate with their relatives by use of birds.

Company

Birds are grown as pets by many. They help one avoid loneliness and provide a company. Even we come across many stories where the birds help in tracking the culprits of mischief and some birds also speak etc.

Games

These are banned in most parts of the world. Here hens especially male are allowed to fight for fun and gambling. This is a cause of violence to the birds. So many governments banned the bird fights.



Do Birds Bond With Humans..

Bird lovers and bird owners would swear that birds do and can love humans. And this is true, but not all birds will develop emotional bonds to people but some definitely do!

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Can A Bird Love?

There is no scientific explanation if birds can love or not or even if they can feel emotion, but bird enthusiasts have observed some type of bird feelings from species to species emerge from different personalities and behaviors.

Although birds cannot communicate their emotions to us directly through speech, their behaviors can display their emotions to the consummate bird observer.


A Bird’s Emotional Bond

Some birds will develop an 'emotional' attachment to a human rather than bonding with other birds. It's important to note here that 'emotional' means, not depending upon a material advantage equaling an emotional attachment (like at feeding time, for instance).

Birds will, at times, transfer their attachments to a human when they are raised away from their flock and this is definitely not a transactional attachment but an emotional one! A parrot, even though it may be experiencing some discomfort, will continue following their favorite human around, even to the ends of the earth!

Birds are important to humans in many ways; they are a source of food and fertilizer. Birds are important to the ecosystem in many ways; they pollinate flowers and disperse seeds.


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