Monday, February 20, 2012

Why Is Bird Conservation Important?

Part of our mission at the World Bird Sanctuary is to secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments. 
These Barn Owl babies were part of World Bird Sanctuary's Barn Owl release program 
Currently, the sanctuary is breeding and releasing barn owls, a rare resident in Missouri.  It is a “species of conservation concern in Missouri,” according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Here we’ll take a look at why bird conservation is critical in our world.

Bird conservation is important in maintaining the diversity of the planet.  Birds are one of the most numerous creatures on the planet and they all have evolved amazing physical and behavioral adaptations.  We, too, must learn to adapt our own behaviors to live in our world, rather than forcing it into an artificial and unsustainable one.
 The above is just a small example of the amazing diversity among birds of the world
Wild birds are a vital part of the ecosystem and provide many key services.  They help control rodent populations.  For example barn owls can eat 2,000 mice in one year. 

Birds also help control insect populations.  They are advanced, extremely efficient, highly motivated, insect pest controllers.  For all of the strategies insects have evolved to evade predation, they still encounter many species of birds that are highly adapted, perfect insect-eaters.  Birds can shift their foraging locations and foraging behavior in response to an insect outbreak.  For example, when a large amount of insects are located in the canopy of trees, many ground or shrub-dwelling birds may go up into the canopy to forage.  Similarly, during an eruption of flighted insects, birds that usually eat by plucking caterpillars off leaves may instead fly after the insects and capture them in mid-air.  Birds not only help lower the current insect pest populations but they also help minimize future outbreaks.  The amount of money this saves us is beyond our imagination. 

Birds also help greatly with seed dispersal, and increase forest growth and conservation.  Additionallty, they are an important part of ecosystems in that they can function as food for other predators.  By studying all of the interactions birds have with the ecosystem, we can better understand how these relationships can affect humans.

Birds can teach us appreciation of natural diversity.  All birds have unique behaviors and personalities and the more we watch and observe them, the more we’ll grow to appreciate all of nature. 
 This Burrowing Owl has adapted to a treeless environment by using Prairie Dog mounds as a hunting perch
Awareness about bird conservation can promote awareness of other environmental issues.  For example, a species may be declining due to polluted water.  That awareness can lead to action taken to fight water contamination, which will in turn help other species of wildlife as well.  Putting out non-secondary rodent poison to get rid of rodents will help stop secondary poisoning of barn owls and other predators.

Birds can educate us on numerous things.  By observing birds in flight, aeronautical engineers have designed more efficient airplanes.  Climatologists who study birds’ migration patterns can gather insight on seasonal climate changes by noting behavioral changes in their subjects.  Psychologists use birds’ courtship rituals and community interactions to better understand complex group dynamics.  We must continue to conserve birds if we want to continue learning from them. 

Birds are important in maintaining the Earth’s biological diversity, providing services to the ecosystem, teaching us appreciation of nature, raising awareness of environmental issues and educating us in many facets of life. 

Bird conservation will always continue to be a vital part of the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission.  It can be yours, too!  Some easy ways you can help save birds include: keeping your cat indoors, build a brush pile for shelter, put out bird feeders, bird baths and bird houses, pick up litter and properly dispose of oil.   

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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