Birds are a primary indicator species. If they are healthy and abundant it means that the world around them is healthy. Neotropical birds, long distance travelers, are critical as their life history provides insight into large connected areas of the earth. Neotropical migratory birds include many of our widely recognized favorites, such as orioles, warblers, hummingbirds and thrushes. Because of their migratory patterns these birds reflect the state of many ecosystems, from the rain forests of Peru to the wetlands of Florida, the East and West coasts and up to forests in Canada.
These habitat areas provide food, shelter, and survival for not only birds, but a myriad of other animals. Through studying the patterns, numbers, and migratory routes of these birds, we gain a clear picture of the overall ecological and environmental health of these regions. When bird populations disappear, it indicates to us that vital ecosystems are being disrupted. Bird populations can show us the environmental effects of everything small to large, from habitat loss from logging in the rainforests or development on a critical shoreline, to much larger global changes such as global warming that could threaten the inhabitants of vast areas, humans included.
Migratory birds provide much more than just a long term view of our environmental health. They can provide real time and immediate indications of the state of our ecosystems, both negative (such as a lake becoming contaminated and bird populations disappearing) and positive (such as a successful reforestation project bringing in new bird populations). Migratory birds' role as indicator species is truly one of the most valuable tools we have in protecting and conserving our planet. On a positive note, as birds disappear, rapid technological advances are providing a better understanding of the challenges and new opportunities with a goal of stabilizing the populations for as many species as possible.
Within localized ecosystems, birds occupy many levels of the food chain as both as predator and prey, and as a result they maintain sustainable population levels for many other species. By pollinating flowers and spreading seeds, many birds help sustain the foundation of our ecosystems by promoting healthy growth of trees and plants. Birds also serve as important pest reducers (scientific studies have shown birds to eat 400-500 million tons of insects a year CITE). Pests that are consumed by birds can range from minor human annoyances to potentially devastating tree and crop killers, to increasingly dangerous carriers of disease that affect humans and animals.
It's worth mentioning that consciously and unconsciously, birds bring joy to our day to day existence. Just stepping outside will invariably lead to exposure of the melodic sounds that birds make, and songbirds particularly form one of the largest natural acoustic backgrounds to our lives. In addition to their songs, observing birds is a delightful activity that it has become a popular hobby worldwide, and many take extreme pleasure in identifying and enjoying the thousands of different birds, all with variable color patterns and traits.
Birds are an integral part of the fabric of our ecosystem, providing us a real-time window of the shifting landscape of our planet while making life healthier and more enjoyable. Their contributions to the environmental ecosystems cannot be overstated. As an increasing loss of habitat is being caused by land development and global warming, it is absolutely critical that we do everything we can to help protect, restore and sustain our bird populations.
Trust For Wildlife is working hard to restore and sustain critical habitats for birds, for the health of the species and the health of the environment overall.
We are working to help gather more information and data on the health and patterns of migratory and shorebirds.
We are doing our part to educate and inform people of all ages on the importance of our bird populations.
We are directly helping sustain bird habitats through ownership of wildlife sanctuaries and providing funding to sustain larger sanctuaries across the United States.