September 15th, 2014
How Does a Bird House Help The Environment?
"You might be surprised to know that bird houses offer many benefits to the environment. Bird houses help birds to survive, and in turn, birds serve to keep weeds and insects in check, pollinate flowering plants, fertilize the soil, disperse seeds, and add biodiversity to our world."
Yes, bird houses play a dynamic role in nature. Anywhere you go in this world, you'll see birds relying on man-made bird structures to perform a multitude of functions that help them to live well and be happy. Without bird houses, the avian kingdom would not be the same.
Basically, a house for birds is an internal nest compartment that uses a roof, floor and walls to form a box-shaped "house." But it's more that just a house, it's a "home" for birds. The primary purpose of a bird house is to help birds and the environment. And it's easy to do, as anyone can offer a little time and effort by mounting a bird house somewhere in their local habitat where a motherbird can find it.
A bird house can help our environment in 9 ways...
- Breeding: Breeding refers to the activities that are associated with mating
birds of both genders and the production of their offspring. Breeding activities are made easier when
birds have a safe and warm place to raise their young. During mating seasons, there is a large percentage
of birds in the world that will search for an enclosed bird house to lay their eggs. Time and space is
needed for eggs to go through a process that is unlike the typical birth of other animals. Birds don't
have an internal gestation period, and instead, development takes place inside
the egg when it is outside of the womb. Gestation for birds is occasionally
used interchangeably for the term "incubation," and the full development incubation period varies
according to a particular species.
The interior space of a man-made wooden structure built specifically for avian wildlife offers the advantage of a successful breeding season. When the proper dimensions are in place, eggs are more likely to hatch and grow all the way into mature fledglings, eventually leaving the nest.
- Soil Fertilization: Birds will use bird houses that are mounted within 10' feet from the ground as a way to swoop back and forth from the perch to the ground below, making it easier to find food on the ground below. Birds perform a number of functions when they land on the ground surface. Birds walk, scratch, eat and defecate on the surface of the ground, essentially helping to fertilize the soil. The scratching effect by their claws effectively "etches" and "aerates" the soil, causing it to become loose and more absorbent. This allows various nutrients and organic debris to mix in with the top soil and increase good bacteria needed for pH balance. Birds help to create and maintain a good compost mixture in the soil, and that's good for all of us, including farmers and gardeners.
- Pest Control: Birds are mother natures' first choice for the replacement of the chemicals found in insecticides. Why? Some birds are considered insectivores because they naturally eat flies, mosquitoes, beetles and other pests. Without birds eating these insects, massive infestations would occur that could potentially devastate our ecosystem. Birds benefit us because they are able to hold in-check the most powerful living species on earth,.. "insects!" If left unchecked, insects might be a much bigger problem worlwide. Birds are also a good replacement for rodenticides. Predator birds such as hawks and owls naturally hunt and eat rodents, effectively keeping them in check too. Altogether, insects and rodents aren't necessarily bad, but they're sometimes concentrated too heavily in the wrong places, such as city parks, farmlands and residential gardens.
- Weed Control: Fortunately, there are natural agents that are willing to work for free when it comes to keeping weed growth in check. Certain bird species such as sparrows, jays, finches, goldfinches, chickadees, Clark's Nutcracker, dove and blackbirds like to eat seeds, including seeds from ragweed, pigeon grass, smartweed, bindweed, crab grass, lamb's-quarters, and pigweed. Some of these birds also like insects, but seeds are definetely in the mix. Finches and sparrows are a few good examples of heavy weed-seed consumers. When it comes to doing their part in nature, birds help to keep weeds under control through the constant ingestion of seeds, weed blossoms, as well as the insects that live on them. They also destroy weeds when they use various parts of the weed plant to build their nests. If it were not for avian seed-eaters, weeds might be a much bigger problem.
- Seed Dispersal:
In the avian kingdom, birds help spread the seeds of good plants, trees and grass,
causing them to grow in other places. Some plants are dependent on birds for successful
and regeneration. How? When seeds are eaten by birds, the outer seed coats are weakened as they pass
through the bird's digestive system. Once a seed has passed completely through their digestive tract,
it will often be dropped far away from the host plant's location, allowing new plants to
regenerate and expand into other areas. This is particularly beneficial in areas of the globe where
ecosystems are dependent on this particular process, such as New Zealand.
Birds also help to spread good seeds from their claws when they walk, run, hop and scratch the surface of the ground. These actions stir up seeds from the ground and get blown by the wind, carried through water, and caught in the feathers and hair of other wildlife. Seeds are dispersed over a wider space of land allowing for less crowding among plants and trees. Birds also spread seeds when they peck at food sources, such as plants, blossoms, vegetables and fruit. During the pecking process, the seeds fall to the ground where they germinate and eventually grow. When birds stir up seeds from the ground and get blown by the wind, they don't travel very far. However, it's not uncommon for a small percentage of seeds to travel thousands of feet away.
- Observation and Fact Gathering: Providing birds with safe structures to live and and be happy will allow humans to observe them and study their behavior. This subsequently helps science to better understand the great outdoors and how people and wildlife can live together. Observation and fact gathering can be performed by anyone. Books used for journals and field notes are great for kids and adults who love birds and want to record information about their local environment. Studying and recording bird behavior is easy and you don't need to be an expert or have powerful binoculars. Just your backyard, a birdhouse, something to write on, a pen,.. and that's it!
- Ornithophily: When considering the most common pollinators, most people will think of honey bees. And it's true that honey bees play a big role in transporting pollen from one flower to another, but did you know that birds aid in the pollination of plants too? When pollination is carried out by birds, the term used to refer to it is ornithophily. Pollination of flowering plants by birds is common among some unique species, and one example is the smallest bird in the world - the bee hummingbird. A few other notable pollinators are sunbirds and spidereaters, both are small birds with very long bills. By supplying these types of creatures with a safe structure to live, whether an enclosed structure or platform, you are enabling the mother bird of that species to lay her eggs and raise her young. Subsequently, more pollinators will visit your neighborhood, essentially enhancing the pollination process for your flowers, vegetable plants and fruit trees. Invite avian pollinators to your geographical area by creating a pollinator friendly habitat in your yard or garden.
- Biodiversity: Bird houses promote biodiversity in the avian world. There is a wonderful variety of birdlife in mountainous regions, lush green valleys, desert areas, waterways, and even arctic regions. Indeed, birds of all kinds are everywhere around the globe. Different birds have different abilities, but collectively, all members of the bird-kingdom play their part in carrying out what mother nature requires of them. What would our world be like without a diverse and colorful array of birds? Bluebirds are good examples, as their blue feathers are bright and beautiful to look at. They remind us of the beautiful biodiverstiy that's all around us and makes us appreciate them. Bluebird numbers declined greatly in the 1900s, but with the help of man-made structures such as bluebird houses (or bluebird boxes), they have made a substantial recovery. Assisting birds with bird houses will preserve their numbers and keep the outdoors populated with different shapes, sizes and colors of various bird species. There are many birds in the world that depend on enclosed structures to survive, and anyone can help sustain the wonderful variety of birdlife by simply mounting a birdhouse.
- Humans: Many environmental variables make up our world, and not the least of
which are humans. Yes, humans are part of the environment too, and can benefit from bird houses. How?
There is satisfaction that comes from creating something made from wood, including houses designed for
birds and structures designed to help feed them. Consequently, when we perceive the sights and sounds
of singing birds, it gives us a feeling that our contributions are helping the environment in which
Indeed, people can appreciate birds. Not only do they vary sharply in color, they vary in size as
well. Some are tiny, while others are incredibly large. Of the six animal categories that belong to
the biological kingdom (kingdom Animalia), birds are arguably the most diverse. Yes, the world of
birds is amazing.
And how beautiful are bluebirds? Yes, they are magnificent to look at with their blue feathers. Nature works with the feathers of a bluebird, as their feathers don't really have any blue pigment, they only appear blue to the human eye. When light is shining directly on them, they look blue, but during low light, or when light is not directly shinning on them, they look gray or black. A process known as "structural coloration" allows keratin protien structures found in hair and feathers to act as prisms that scatter light and amplify the blue wavelength. The blue wavelengths of light are percieved by our eyes, causing the feathers to look blue when they're really not.
Of the six animal categories, the members of the avian category are the most colorful. Collectively, they possess every color of the visible light spectrum, including non-colors of white and black. Their feathers are able to capture light and turn them into radiant colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, and all the infinite possibilities in between. It's easy to notice their beautiful feathers and their magnificent stature, as they remind us of their presence and how significant their contributions are.
Birdwatchers can especially appreciate all bird species. Various species are capable of producing radiant colors in their feathers, such as the Sun Conure. This medium-sized parrot displays a rainbow of bright colors all in one beautiful bird. Just looking at their striking beauty strengthens our faith and gives us a feeling of fulfillment. And that's a healthy thing for everyone! When humans help these creatures, we see how our man-made structures help to keep them alive and well.
Why do we need bird houses?
We need bird houses as a way to show our feathered friends that we care about them. Birds and other wildlife sometimes need extra help to survive, and at no fault of their own. Human activities and land developers are constantly pushing them out of their natural habitat forcing them to look for new places to live. All birds possess abilities that contribute to the environment in one way or another, and humans should appreciate that. Their accumulative efforts aid mother nature in keeping our ecosystem healthy and robust.
People all over the world build bird houses to show their appreciation for birds. There are many reasons to appreciate birds...
- Odd or Unusual - Birds are constantly active and always moving. It's easy to appreciate them, as their unique abilities easily gets our attention. Even watching the odd and unusual motions of flightless birds is fun, like when a penguin wobbles across the snow, or when the fastest bird on earth (an ostrich) runs through the desert. Their unique abilities and humble presence reminds us that the simple things in life are the best.
- Colors - Various species are capable of producing radiant colors in their feathers, such as the sun conure. This medium-sized parrot displays a rainbow of bright colors all in one beautiful bird. Just looking at their striking beauty strengthens our faith and gives us a feeling of fulfillment. And that's a healthy thing for everyone. When humans help these creatures, we see how our man-made structures help to keep them alive and well.
- Sounds - Consider the beautiful sounds of a wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). This bird is a super talented singer and can mimick the sounds of two birds singing at the same time. It uses its voicebox to harmonize two melodies to produce and harmonize multi-dimensional sounds. The status of this bird is classified as "threatened," and its trend is "decreasing."
- Friends - Making freinds with birds gives us a feeling of joy. There are many types of birds that will become friends with humans. For example, pigeons, ducks and seagulls and will come close enough to eat out of the hands of humans who offer food. Hummingbirds too, will hover over a human hand offering a container of nectar and drink from it. Parrots are another good example, and will eat from humans hands while also showing affection in many ways.
Importance of Bird Houses
It's obvious that bird houses are important. Our current world has become such an active and crowded place that birds are becoming more dependent on man-made bird structures to survive. The encroachment of land development has disrupted indigenous species in their natural habitat to the point where birds are forced to live in less desirable locations, and competing with other aggressive species that are unwilling to accept them as their new neighbors. When you think about the many disruptions that occur in our society today, it's easy to appreciate and understand why a simple wooden box designed as a "home" for birds is important.
A bird house works by protecting a motherbird and her eggs in a protective enclosure. Birdhouses can be easily constructed by anyone with a few tools inside of a garage or small workshop. Common designs have 4 walls, but you will also see designs that have only 3 walls with the front section open. With one plank of wood, multiple projects can be made, especially platforms, which only need one section wide enough for a small nest. No roof or walls are needed. Other designs include shapes that are "A-frame", rectangular, odd or irregular, and the only tools required are a hamer, saw and some nails. When you're all done, you'll be proud that you've created something really special for your feathered friends. The aesthetic look of your project doesn't matter as much as your intentions.
Although bird structures come in a wide variety of designs, any type of structure that is intended for the benefit of avian life will help. There are many birds in the world that will choose an enclosed or partially enclosed structure to live in, and since the natural habitat of birds is being reduced every year, assisting them with your humble home project will provide many species a safe place to live and reproduce.
Unfinished Wood.. a good choice!
Bird houses are often constructed with unfinished bare wood. Wood surfaces that have not been treated with chemicals are considered "unfinished" and are a good choice because there are no harmful compounds that can potentially harm birds and pollute the environment.
Oil, Water & Shellac
There are several alternative finishes that are effective at protecting bare wood surfaces while being safe for wildlife and their habitats. These alternatives are natural applications that absorb into wood grain and provide an attractive natural finish without the harmful effects of industrial chemicals and heavy solvents. Generally, natural products are not as long-lasting as chemical-based ones are, but will still prolong the life span of a bird house by protecting the external surface walls, floor and roof from the outdoor elements. Some examples of natural solutions are:
- Oils - Oil finishes are produced from various seeds and nuts. Oil applications will harden and cure the wood to certain levels, and do a good job in beautifying and accentuating the wood grain. Two common oils used to treat wood are linseed and tung oil. Linseed oil is derived from the seeds of the flax plant. It hardens quickly on wood but is not very scratch or water resistent unless multiple layers are applied. On the other hand, tung oil, which comes from the seeds of the tung tree, is known for its flexible, durable, and protective waterproof finish. Niether oils are 100% scratch resistent, but tung oil offers more scratch resistent qualities than linseed oil.
- Water-based - Water-based coatings will provide a clear layer that is durable and attractive. As far as scratch resistance, many water-based coatings are almost as durable as polyurethane.
- Shellac - This is a natural product made from combining a secretion from the female lac bug with a solvent such as alcohol. It is very safe once dried and hardened.
Most natural solutions are completely free of artificial or synthesized ingredients, or at least close to it. Water-based solutions sometimes contain cosolvents, which are solvents that are present in lower concentrations and serve to push the water out of the coating as it dries. Water-based applications are a good way to lower the output of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
A short history lesson...
Birdhouses were invented centuries ago and used for different reasons. In the 1600s, birdhouses in Turkey were often built as integral parts of a building to complement the surrounding architecture. Birdhouses in Europe were sometimes used as a trap to capture birds and their eggs. Native Americans, along with early colonists, were interested in keeping birds warm during cold winters and also promoting birdlife as a method of pest control. In the Hindu religion of India (the world's oldest religion), animal life is traditionally considered sacred.
Almost anywhere you go in our modern world today, you'll see birds relying on man-made bird-structures to perform a multitude of functions. Every society uses them for the promotion of natural birdlife. If you're a bird-lover, consider placing more than just one type of structure in your yard. This will increase the chances of attracting multiple species to your yard. There are many birds from different families that get along together for the most part, and within reasonable distances even aggressive and territorial ones can learn to live in harmony.
Birds & Ecology
Ecology is a general term that represents the study of relationships between living organisms and their physical environment. Ecology considers all 5 categories of living organisms - plant, animal, fungi, protista, and monera. These forms of life are all interconnected, and together they form an intricate network. When one form of life is removed or disrupted, it may endanger the balance of the nature's network of life. Birds are a good example, and recognized as one of the most important indicators of the condition of a particular ecosystem. Because birds are sensitive to habitat change and easy to monitor, they are a favorite tool in the field of ecology.
Birdhouses are an important tool when monitoring birds. Birdhouses help humans to observe the behavior of birds when they are nesting. Overall, they help us to understand birds and how they interact with their surroundings.
Birds can see ultraviolet light rays that humans can't. They have an extra cone receptor that expands the visible light spectrum, allowing them to perceive wavelengths in the ultraviolet range as well as the visible range of the spectrum. Birds have 4 photoreceptive cones in the retina located at the back of the eye, humans only have 3. With their enhanced eyesight, they are much more likely to see a bird feeder before they actually smell the food in it. Birds are hyper-aware of all the efforts that humans make when supplying them with food and shelter.
Most birds don't have a very good sense of smell, but they do have good eyesight. In fact, their eyesight is considered excellent. A birdhouse doesn't need to be painted with bright colors in order to get the attention of a nearby bird. Nonetheless, bird houses are sometimes painted with bright colors just for fun. Combinations of bright colors and natural colors work too, such as colorful graphics painted on the surface of bare unfinished cedar wood»
A birdhouse mounted just 5-7' feet off the ground will make a short swoop-path for birds to land on the ground below. This will encourage a regular routine for them to fly back and forth from the perch to the ground below, and back again. A bird house doesn't have to be fancy or sophisticated either. Just a basic model such as a birdbox or platform will do. Regardless of style, any structure can potentially create a way for a motherbird to scope out food on the ground. A swoop-path is a flight pattern that consists of a short flying distance created by the repetitive back-and-forth action from the structure to the ground. A motherbird will use a swoop-path as a regular way of transporting food on the ground back up to the structure.
Popular accessories for modern bird houses..
Various models come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Doing some research about the birds in your local habitat will help you determine what model is right for your environment. Consider additional aspects of a bird house that will enhance functionality, such as predator guards, ventilation, breathable materials, fledgling ledges, landing ledges and horizontal perches (not perpindicular).
Certain birds mainly want protection inside of an enclosed structure so they can lay their eggs, while others might look for an open platform structure for roosting. Some species of birds may not feel the need for safety as much as others do simply because they are not as vulnerable. Some motherbirds will lay their eggs on the ground surface near thick foliage, and some won't. In fact, some birds, such as the burrowing owl, will dig a hole in the ground to raise their young. Birds follow their instincts and use their natural skills when looking for a place to nest, rest and hide. The chances of any type of avian wildlife choosing your backyard for their home are better if your property is peaceful with minimal movement and low noise.
Parents and kids can do their part too!
Parents will find it satisfying assisting their children in mounting a simple bird house. Mounting a bird house is easy and takes little time. When parents teach their kids about bird houses, they learn about natural processes, such as incubation, gestation periods and general reproduction. Kids will find it fascinating to watch eggs hatch and grow into fledglings. They'll develop a better understanding of how birds evolve and survive, eventually growing up with a deeper appreciation of wildlife.
Teaching kids about avian life also gives them a wider understanding of ecosystems. Indeed, ecosystems are everywhere - forrests, deserts, coral reefs, mountainous regions, urban areas and more. Habitats are pockets of natural activities within those ecosystems, and some are much closer to home, such as empty fields, parks, residential backyards, even business districts. Yes, the great outdoors includes it all, no matter where you are, offering advantages and opportunities for kids to observe things in nature. Birdlife is only one part of it, as an ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things that work together - soil, sun, air, water and life.
Plants and animals all play a part in the balance of nature, and they're available for anyone to enjoy. A child will enjoy watching a bluebird because of their blue feathers. And what's more fascinating to see when purple martins fly through the air like acrobats? The sight of these amazing creatures will increase a child's perception and awareness for the colorful and diverse beauty all around them. But kids might miss out on these wonderful things if an adult does not direct their attention toward them.
Negative forces are always at work!
There are many variables in nature that work against all species. The chances that a negative outside force will hinder the success of a mother bird in raising her young are enormous. Predators that prey on small birds are not really considered negative forces because they are following their instincts, however, human encroachment is a negative force that is constantly destroying huge amounts of natural habitat. Mounting a birdhouse will help to create a balance between humans and many kinds of birds. It enables man and beast to thrive in the same space, and helps to fulfill natures' intended purpose for man and beast to live together in harmony.
Declining Bird Populations
Scientists have found that the number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined significantly in past decades. Although a few species have recovered somewhat, the majority of all other bird groups have declined about 29% overall since 1970.
The first impression that most people might get when they think of a bird house is that it's just a basic structure with the primary purpose of protecting eggs. And for the most part this is true, but a bird house may help to keep avian populations strong even in lieu of a larger reality that involve disruptions. In our busy world, there are many things that can disrupt the balance of nature. Examples of disruptions include:
- Cities expanding their boundaries.
- Forrest fires caused by careless humans.
- Pollution in the air and waterways.
- Human activity such as dirt-bikes, ATV's, campgrounds and over-hunting.
- Competition from non-native birds being introduced into different bird habitats other than their own.
Unfortunately, disruptions occur in nature all the time, but a bird house may help to offset some of those disruptions. A hundred years ago, the global population was only about 2 billion. But today, the total population on earth has grown so much that the disruptions caused from humans is not only a constant problem for animals in their normal habitat, but a rapidly progressing threat. Human encroachment has forced birds and other animals to migrate into other habitats with climates that they are not compatible with. Disruptions also force them to live with unfamiliar predators that they cannot defend themselves against. If every homeowner in America placed at least one sturdy wooden structure in their yard, our winged-friends would have a much better chance of survival when disruptions occur. It's a small effort that will make a big difference!
North American Bluebird
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, songbird populations have been declining steadily. However, in the case of the North American bluebird, side mounted nest boxes have helped to reverse this decline. In recent decades, efforts have been made by humans to help promote bluebird numbers by building bluebird trails, which involves setting up multiple bluebird nest boxes along a track or trail at certain intervals. It's a common belief today that the efforts made by people in past decades have greatly helped to improve bluebird numbers.
Birds offer unique and dynamic contributions that only birds can offer. Their contributions would be non-existent in some areas if it were not for the efforts of compassionate human beings who were willing and ready to help, as well as organizations that have always been proactive toward helping bluebirds and other wildlife. In 1978, the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) was formed by citizen scientists and birders concerned about the drastic decline in the bluebird population. Also, all birds and their nests, with the exception of pigeons, starlings, grackles, and English house sparrows, are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). PETA»
Fortunately for all birds, with the help of individuals and organizations, higher levels of awareness have spurred birdlovers to become more proactive in their efforts to promote the reproduction of mating birds.
Imagine what our world would be like without songbirds...
The sounds of singing birds makes us feel good. What would our lives be like if suddenly we could not hear them singing in the morning? As we live our busy lives, the sound of a songbird outside our window helps us to feel pleasure and calmness. It gives us a sense that we are at peace with nature. Bird calls range from sweet-sounding to loud crowing, and many other sounds including chirping, chipping, crying, whistling, peeping, and even the screeching sound of a barn owl. Not all birds are songbirds, but it's easy to appreciate the presence of all birds when you consider what they do for us. The next time you feel stress or anxiety, take a walk through a wilderness area and listen to the sounds of nature, the wind blowing through the trees, water flowing down a stream, and the sound of a robin high up in a shade tree.
Indeed, mother nature has given us a lot to appreciate. Everywhere you go in the world, you'll see avian creatures of all sizes, shapes, and colors relying on bird houses to survive. Bird houses fit into the natural order of evolution because they help birds to keep their numbers strong. Providing birds with a warm and safe place to lay their eggs increases the chances of a successful gestation period, and eventually, eggs will hatch, the young birds will mature, and they become mature enough to leave the nest and take up their place in nature. This keeps the chain of evolution and reproduction progressing forward. Biodiversity involves a wide spectrum of wildlife and plants thriving together, collectively doing their part in nature.
The mere presence of birds makes us appreciate them, as their continual actions so easily gets our attention. Whether it's a songbird singing, a parot showing off it's feathers, or a Wood Duck swimming, they all possess abilities that entertain us and add value to our lives. Birds reminds us that the simple things in life are important too.
Bird houses do not raise property values!
A birdhouse by itself is not a single item that is significant enough to raise the value of a home or other type of real estate. No matter how expensive the bird structure is, it will not raise the value of any kind of property, commercial or residential.
Birds are magnificent creatures, and arguably one of the greatest among all survivalists. With their ability to run, hop, jump and fly, they are readily able to hunt and forage for food, defend against predators, flee from danger, provide for their young, relocate and adapt. Birds are incredibly diverse, and you never know what you'll see when you look through a pair of binoculars. Their colors, feathers, and shapes makes them very attractive and fun to watch.
A straightforward home project can be created by relying on your own imagination, and it can be done right in your own backyard. Anybody can have fun making something that will help backyard birds, for example,
- Making your own wood pile by stacking logs and branches will offer small spaces for birds and other wildlife to hide.
- Building your own bird feeder will make a fun project for kids and adults. This can easily be done by using sections of wood and attaching them together in the form of a tray.
- Planting trees and bushes will create more places to land and roost.
- And of course, a birdhouse. Paint it any color you like, and have fun with it!
A bird house is more than just a house, it's a "home" for birds. Mounting a simple wooden home for birds somewhere in nature is a mutual agreement between humans and birds where both are contributing factors of the same experience. Indeed, birds are truly amazing. Mounting a home for birds in your backyard will help keep bird populations strong, thus helping our environment! You can do your part by mounting a home for birds somewhere in your neighborhood where they can find it.