It’s for the Birds: Each Bird Contributes to Our Ecosystem


Birds are important to the ecosystem. Each type of bird plays a different role in helping to maintain the ecosystem. Here are a few ways birds contribute.

1. Birds eat insects – hundreds of them a day. Insect eating birds include bluebirds, warblers and woodpeckers. Also, bats eat thousands of pesky mosquitos each year.

2. Birds pollinate flowers. Nectar eating birds like Hummingbirds, for instance, spread pollen with their beaks and feathers. Other common pollinators are sunbirds and honey-eaters. 

3. Birds spread seeds. They eat fruit, then carried the seed in their intestines and deposit them in new places. Fruit-eating birds include finches, orioles, mockingbirds and robins. 

4. Birds help maintain the rodent population. Predator birds, also known as raptors, who eat small rodents and prey are eagles, hawks, falcons and vultures. 


Want to be a junior scientist and help collect data about birds? It’s so easy! You can do it anytime by yourself, with your friends or family, or with your classroom, or other bunch of friends like a scout troop or 4H group. 

The Great Backyard Bird Count was the first program, started in 1998, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.. It was the first citizen-science data collection project that showed the results in real-time online for the study of wild birds.

Every year in February there are four days where you can participate along with more than 160,000 people of all ages to create an annual snapshot of what kind of birds you see where you live. This year, The Great Backyard Bird Count days are February 14-17. 

You can help them try to find answers to many questions, such as:

How will the weather and climate change influence bird populations?

Some birds, such as winter finches, appear in large numbers during some years but not others.

Where are these species from year to year, and what can we learn from these patterns?

How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?

How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?

Each year, more and more people participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count from all over the world. In 2019 there were more than 6,800 species identified in more than 100 countries around the world. Since the GBBC was started, there have been over 32 MILLION birds counted as of December 2019.

You can count birds for 15 minutes only, or make a day of it with friends and pack a picnic. Bird-watching can be done from your backyard without any special equipment. You just need your eyes and ears. If you bird watch with a friend, think about switching yards. There may be different birds visiting or flying over.

You might really like birdwatching, and want to get more involved. Other handy equipment to have is a pair of binoculars. If you have a camera, you can take photos of the birds you spot and put them on The Great Backyard Bird Count website with help from your adult. The GBBC website also has great information about the size and shape, color pattern, behavior and habitats of birds.

You might be a great bird photographer and enter the contest on The Great Backyard Bird Count website.

Your adult or teacher will need to set up a free account at so you can log in all the birds you see. The Great Backyard Bird Count website has a bunch of things to help you identify birds. There are photos to help you identify birds, audio files to listen to so you know what they sound like. Information about their habitat, where they like to nest. And you can get a list of birds in your state, city and even in your zip code.

Everyone can be a junior scientist and join the biggest bird-watching team ever created with The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Count birds all year if you want. Bella Vista participated in the The Christmas Day bird count with 81 different species and almost 7,000 birds counted. State parks are participating and may have more educational programs where you can learn about birds and wildlife. Libraries have lots of books about birds, and state parks have books about birds known to your state and are usually free.


All photos courtesy of Quin W.