What Birds Eat in Winter and How It Helps Us
WOOSTER, Ohio - What do birds eat when the snow flies?
The black-capped chickadee "keeps up a diligent search for dormant forms of insect life."
The American goldfinch wolfs down the seeds of "thistle, ragweed and other troublesome plants in quantity."
The dark-eyed junco gleans "largely the seeds of noxious weeds."
So says Red Bird, Green Bird: How Birds Help Us Grow Healthy Gardens (OARDC/OSU Extension, 2009), a new edition of an old report called Some Ohio Birds. It details the diets and past abundance of 91 Buckeye state bird species.
Scientists Harry Gossard and Scott Harry of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station - now the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) - wrote it in 1912. It shows how birds help farmers and gardeners by gobbling down insect pests, weed seeds and rodents.
It offers, too, a beginning section on what we can do to assist birds in winter, including by giving them seed and suet and by growing good food plants and shelter belts.
"An evergreen screen furnishes greater protection in winter than one of deciduous trees," the authors note, "and many birds find snug roosting places among the amply clothed branches."
* "Chaff, mixed with grain, and scattered in a sheltered place near the haunts of bobwhites may be the means of saving many from death by starvation or freezing."
* "As a destroyer of smartweed seeds," the song sparrow is "unsurpassed."
* For the mourning dove, "Weed seed forms the principal and almost constant article of diet for all seasons." Indeed, it eats "the seeds of many weeds not commonly eaten by other birds."
* All winter long, "birds are busy cleaning up the dormant insect life which lies hidden away in crevices between or under the bark, among the fallen leaves and in various other places. This winter cleanup of insect life is a 'stitch in time,' and the encouragement and protection given these feathered friends is well paid back in beneficial service."
Red Bird, Green Bird (6 x 9 in., 92 pp., paperback) costs $12 and includes free shipping. Buy it by mail from CommTech, OARDC, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691; or in person in 208 Research Services Building, OARDC, Wooster, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Make checks payable to Ohio State University.
Call 330-263-3780 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
OARDC and Ohio State University Extension - the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - are the book's joint publishers.
See the cover and sample pages at http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~news/story.php?id=5176.