Some people may wonder what birds have to do with Landcare.
Birds play a large and important role in the balance of our ecology and hence effect our landscape and the plants and soil existing on the landscape. The following is a brief description of some of the ways birds affect our ecosystem.
Birds, in general, have a very varied diet. There are seed eaters, nectar eaters, meat eaters and insect eaters. Some birds fit into only one of these categories whilst others fit into 2 or more of these categories. By feeding on meat and insects the extent of many of our pests are controlled often to the extent that they no longer become pests. The list of pests falling into this category is numerous but some typical examples are mice, rats, caterpillars, moths, wood burrowing insects, grubs. If birds were not consuming these pests then our current plants, including vegetable, cereal and grass crops (as they exist today) would be completely devastated without the application of huge quantities of pesticide. So birds are one of nature's pesticides.
When birds eat seeds and berries often the actual plant seed is passed through the bird undigested. So the seeds are deposited in the birds droppings. Many of these seeds germinate and grow and hence the re-vegetation of plants continues. Studies have shown that many plants are dependant upon propagation by this method. Yes, unfortunately, weeds can also be spread by this method. But weeds, generally, have been introduced by humans and hence need to be eradicated by humans. Don't blame the birds.
Birds which feed on nectar collect pollen on their beaks and by doing so deposit that pollen on other flowers resulting in assisting in fertilisation of the seeds of the plant.
Birds are great scratchers. As birds scratch through leaf litter and twigs on the forest floor, or even in your garden, they are assisting in the decomposition of this matter back into the soil and also aerating the top soil. This is all beneficial to the soil and hence the plants which grow in it. In addition to this their droppings are also beneficial in maintaining soil nutrients. Bird droppings are generally high in phosphate. In areas where large quantities exist it is actually harvested for use in slow release crop fertiliser.
Birds are selective as to where they live, feed and breed. This selection is based on factors such as availability of food and shelter, level of predators, prevailing weather, level of toxins, etc. As such the population density and types of birds or lack thereof in a particular area is a strong indicator as to the ecological health of that area. The deaths and mal effects suffered by millions of birds in the 1950's and 1960's was a large factor in highlighting the ill effect and the subsequent banning of the insecticide DDT. The death of birds or lack of birds on large waterways is often an indicator that the waterway is toxic and hence may not be suitable for animal consumption or crop irrigation.
Trials have demonstrated that paddocks planted partially with trees will attract native birds to the area and have a marked effect on natural pest control for the crops and pastures grown in the paddock.
Birds of course play a role in all our lives just by the sheer enjoyment of listening to their lovely calls, watching their beautiful flight patterns, seeing their wonderful colourations and using their feathers (when they have finished with them) for all kinds of adornments.
In Australia the status of birds is used in environmental reports such as the State of the Environment, a report published every five years by the Department of Environment and Heritage. Much of the information used in these reports is gathered by the Birdslife Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds, one of the largest wildlife databases in the world.
The Binginwarri Landcare group conduct regular bird outings which can be attended by anyone, The bird sightings are recorded and can be viewed by clicking Bird Outings above. The listings are also submitted to the Birdlife Australia's Atlas to assist Birdlife Australia in their monitoring activities. One of our members is undertaking a bird monitoring programme in a specific area. His current and future reports can be accessed by clicking Bird Monitoring above.
For details of activities and events Australia wide refer to Birdlife Australia