Timber and forest birds
Many years ago, I had an epiphany that I would like to share. Several students and I were installing research plots in the forests on Pittman Island, Issaquena County, Mississippi, an island adjacent to the Mississippi River, near the borders of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. While eating lunch, we watched a bird, more specifically a prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea), fly into the crown of a 6-inch diameter understory sugarberry (Celtis laevigata). As we watched this bird for the next 10 minutes fly from twig to twig foraging for insects, my thought was if one bird puts this much effort into foraging for invertebrates in one small tree, how many invertebrates are consumed on a daily basis by all forest dwelling birds? This question led me to wonder how much leaf area per acre is saved due to birds consuming leaf-eating invertebrates. Then, how many board feet per acre per year are produced by this “saved” leaf area? Further, what would the forest be like if all bird populations were reduced? Would we even have a forest without birds?