Why Should We Care about Birds?

In this Year of the Bird, let's consider why birds are so important. We know we love birds for their beauty and personalities. But is there an economic value of birds in our ecology?  According to Cagan H. Sekercioglu in “How Much Is a Bird Worth? (Living Bird, Summer 2017, Vol. 36, Issue 3), the ecological value may be billions of dollars worldwide. Here are some of the ways birds serve our environment.

  • Seed dispersal: in some tropical forests, birds disperse up to 92% of tree and other woody plant seeds; while seed dispersion is less in temperate climates, the human labor savings in seed dispersal can be in the millions for each bird species that disperses seeds.
  • Pollination: while less common than seed dispersal, birds may pollinate 3 – 5% of 1,500 crop species.
  • Pest control: Birds control insects that damage trees, plants, and crops. Birds of prey eat rodents that consume many crops.
  • Scavenging and providing sanitary service: Vultures and other scavengers clean up carcasses, thus reducing pathogenic bacteria and reducing disease. This is particularly important in developing countries.
  • And let's not forget how birds provide down for garments and game meat for food.