2013 May Nature News – Bird-friendly foods – Part II

Ferruginous (top) & Mountain plover

Ferruginous (top) & Mountain plover

With your internet search engine, query keywords “barn owl boxes” or “wineries that use barn owl nest boxes” or “vineyards with red-tailed hawk platforms.” You will find an abundance of choices of wines from vineyards with a well-established practice of using nesting boxes and raptor perches to attract beneficial birds of prey, a natural part of our ecosystem, to control gopher and rodent populations, thus eliminating the need for dangerous poisons and pesticides. Think of the impact these poisons have on wildlife and human health.

Other types of food crops can benefit from avian predators.  Recently, while on a trip through the heavy agriculture area of Yuma, I saw owl nest boxes tucked into hay bale stacks on the borders of vegetable and hay fields.  This serves a two-fold purpose:  The owls don’t nest in the spaces between the hay bales (and risk loss of chicks due to moving the bales); they have a safe place to roost during the day in an area fairly devoid of trees, barns, and silos. Secondly, the owls attracted to these boxes are busily prowling the fields looking for rodents, again eliminating the need for dangerous chemicals on our food.

In this same farming area, we observed many man-made burrowing owl tunnels with perches on the periphery of produce fields, again encouraging these small efficient predators that hunt insects and rodents.

Look for products that utilize natural and organic substitutes for pesticides.  Remember, this is food intended for YOUR plate! Other sustainable practices are the use of bat houses for insect control, a farmer or distributor that uses recyclable shipping material, crop rotations to replace vital soil nutrients, and other nature-based strategies.

Native grassland bird populations such as ferruginous hawks, mountain plovers, Swainson’s hawks, greater sage-grouse, meadowlarks, and longspurs (to name only a few) are declining at an increased rate due to loss of habitat as pasturelands are converted to both housing and agricultural cropland. Inappropriate fire suppression has encouraged invasive plant species.  Many birds will benefit from appropriate livestock grazing on preserved native grasses. Buy native grassland-fed beef whenever possible.

Read about Brazil’s efforts to preserve grasslands vital to migrating birds: http://www.audubonmagazine.org/articles/conservation/south-american-cowboys-cook-bird-friendly-beef

Last month you were asked if you would be willing to change some of your food purchase habits to help save environment critical to avian survival. I hope that your answer is a resounding “YES!”  Take that next step, do your research, learn where your food comes from and how it was grown.  Your careful, well-informed choices can and will make a healthier world.


Resource references & recommended reading:


1 Comment

One Response to 2013 May Nature News – Bird-friendly foods – Part II

  1. Art Smith says:

    Excellent, as usual. Thank you………Art

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