Did you know that over 75% of all plants require pollination? And 30-40% of the food we eat is brought to us courtesy of pollinators? Bees, other insects, bats and birds provide this service for free. And it’s estimated the service they provide is worth over $200 billion.
All pollinating birds have especially adapted beaks to drink nectar while also being able to carry off pollen to the next flower on parts of their bodies. In continental North America, our pollinating birds are hummingbirds (like this lovely female Ruby-throated Hummingbird pictured here) and in Hawaii, there are honeycreepers. In other parts of the world, sunbirds(like the Magnificent Sunbird who is the header bird in our newsletter this month) do the work in Africa and Australasia. Australia has honeyeatersand New Guinea has brush-tongued parrots which take over that role.
Additionally many birds benefit from the wild food sources created by pollinators, or from eating the insect pollinators themselves. In the US, birds like Wood Thrushes, warblers and bluebirds are all reliant upon the same insects that pollinate flowers and crops. As the insect population goes, so go the welfare of birds and agriculture.
If you haven’t gotten the message yet….yes, there is something you can do! Why not cultivate a pollinator haven in your garden? Choose native plants that are attractive to pollinators (many of which have brightly colored flowers sure to perk up any garden). Then if you have the space, create a larger habitat incorporating those plants and adding a nestbox to the mix. The Pollinator Partnership at the Smithsonianhas suggestions for how to do this and what to plant. But this is just the beginning of what can be done!
Take a look at an amazing project in Canada, Norway and Australiawhere B&B Highways (Bed and Breakfasts for Birds, Bees, Butterflies and Biodiversity) are being created, providing a safe and connected haven for all sorts of pollinators in a pathway through the city. Each B&B is designed to have a variety of native plants that attract pollinators comprising a habitat that they can live in, plus a nest box, bee box and/or bat house. And they are cropping up on rooftops, churchyards, schools, and balconies around the cities of Oslo, Vancouver and Sydney, giving pollinators a way to live and move seamlessly around the city and do their job!
For more info on what plants to plant and best practices for creating habitat for pollinators, check out this piece from the US Forest Service.
Whatever you decide to do, any newly created habitat – especially habitat that is contiguous with others – helps create much-needed living spaces and life-resources for birds and all sorts of other wildlife….and it makes it a better place for people too!