Songbirds Devour Bugs
Scientists have known for many decades that songbirds are critical in nature for the dampening of insect population fluctuations. They are amazing insect eating machines. Although many adult songbirds are seed eaters, most baby birds cannot digest seeds and so must be fed fresh insects. The diminutive house wren feeds 500 insects to its young in the course of just one afternoon! Seed-eating chickadees and house finches glean hundreds of insects from your yard every day for their babies. Insect eating adults glean even more insects for themselves. A tiny swallow will devour 1,000 leaf hoppers in 12 hours. A northern oriole can eat 17 hairy caterpillars per minute. Even the lowly starling and the pugnacious English sparrow devour literally thousands of pest insects or insect larvae each season.
As long as the bird population in an area is varied and stable, pest insect populations are generally manageable, especially in the home landscape. If the number of birds decreases, then the numbers of pest insects increase. Attracting songbirds to your landscape does not necessarily completely replace the occasional use of pesticides, but it definitely reduces the need for those products.
The More Species the Better
Songbirds are only one factor in the natural control of pest insects in a healthy home landscape. Small mammals, weather, “beneficial” insects, parasites, fungi and diseases all play a role in keeping pest insect populations at a level where their damage does not mar the appearance of the yard. Nevertheless, the more songbirds you can attract to your yard either as residents or as visitors, the fewer pest insect problems you will ever have to deal with.
Pest insects are found all over the home landscape, in the ground, on the ground, in shrubs, in trees, and just generally flying around. Some songbirds feed while in flight. Some are foliage gleaners, and others are bark gleaners. And, there are birds that eat what they find on the ground. That means that if you can attract lots of different species of birds, then you are likely to have birds in residence that work all those different areas of the yard. So part of the fun in attracting songbirds to your yard is to find ways to entice lots of different species.