Breaking news of bird population loss swept new headlines by storm in late 2019 and 2020. From the New York Times, NPR, National Audubon Society and dozens more, the decline of bird populations and diversity in North America took the world by storm. Understandably so, more than 3 billion birds have vanished within the last 50 years.
Some bird species have had increases in population. These species tend to be more generalist, and have adapted better to living closer to humans. Birds of prey like raptors, populations have increased are linked to growing food reserves. Rodents and feral cats are found where people live densely. Think Liebegs Law of the Minimum, savvy.
It is the migratory birds populations that are specialist, which have taken the biggest hit. Birds, bees and other flying organisms use electromagnetic frequency to conduct their migration or navigating for sourcing food. Our culture continues to provide more hurdles for these struggling creatures. The Great Lakes Region is hotspot for birders. In Western New York, our Niagara River Corridor is a designated Globally Significant IBA-Important Bird Area. As gardeners in WNY we have a responsibility to support these birds. If you are concerned by this news, please know there is something you can do: plant native.
Due to co-evolution, native plants are host species to the insects that eat them, the larval host plant. The “poster child” for this concept is the monarch butterfly and genus Asclepias for dozens of milkweed species that support them through migration. The majority of invertebrate have specific metamorphic life stages where they use the soil or the native plants growing forth. Most people have lost sight, and do not foster hospitable landscapes for life. A growing body of research from universities, government agencies, environmental groups and citizen scientists, prove the direct correlation of reduced fecundity for birds in human areas are where landscapes are planted with little to no native plants.
It’s the larvae stage of insects that is most valuable for birds; omnivores feeding on herbivores. Think of this transfer of enegery from primary (plant eaters) to secondary trophic levels (eaters of plant eaters). But we must also remember the complementary conditions a true eco gardener must foster: Living Soils. Garden beds with 1 or more layers of landscape cloth, plastic sheeting, and thick mats of spoiled and dyed mulch can completely negate your efforts. Do NOT CREATE AN ECOLOGICAL TRAP! Check out our multiple part series about soil and our regenerative approach to achieve bio-restoration so your garden plants can thrive and weeds decline naturally as we shift the soil microbial community.
By Eme Nieves
Founder & CEO of Gardeness Inc