A recent study looked at the economic value city dwellers place on having birds in their communities. Researches asked how much residents would spend to conserve common bird species and what they’d spend, if anything, on bird food. In Seattle, the value of enjoying common birds is about $120 million in bird seed, housing and plantings. “We know that having a livable, green community that attracts birds also increases the value of homes in that area.” said John Marzluff, a University of Washington professor of environmental and forest sciences and the paper’s co-author. “This paper shows there’s an economic service birds are providing.” Home improvement doesn’t always have to involve a hammer and a saw.
Here at The Edge of The Wood we noticed that chipmunks can talk up a storm. They can sound alarm calls for as long as 30 minutes but what are they saying? Scientists noted three distinct alarm calls, one of which is called a “cluck.” It is a very specific warning of an aerial threat like a red-tailed hawk. So if you hear a cluck, don’t think chicken…a chipmunk might be warning you to duck!
Here at The Edge of the Wood we noticed that in urban areas there are more black squirrels than gray squirrels. Biologists believe that black squirrels may have been the norm several centuries ago, before large-scale deforestation. Today’s woodlands are much less shady than forests used to be, and cities, with their tall buildings, may mimic the darker environs of the early continent. In environments with more sunlight, “squirrel gray” can offer better camouflage. In New York City black-coated squirrels blend in perfectly with the urban human population. … after all, a little black dress is always in fashion.
Here at The Edge of the Wood we have come to understand that bird plumage descriptions can be confounding. The male Redstart is…orange. The red-bellied woodpecker’s head is brighter red than its belly. And, with that giant blue bill, why is it called a ruddy duck? Here we have the classic red tail of the red-tailed hawk, but you won’t find it on all of these fine raptors. Most juveniles have yet to grow one. Some morph in and out of rusty colors, and the western version of the species may not have it at all. What’s a bird lover to do?
Trish O’Kane thinks so. She runs a program at the University of Wisconsin that pairs university birding students with underprivileged middle school students in a unique environmental studies program. The kids explore nature and learn about environmental justice issues affecting their communities. They are shown that nature belongs to all of us and not just the few. So get outside and enjoy the bird songs…it might inspire you to do great things.
Professor Kelly Drew of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks has discovered that arctic squirrels lose synapses in their brains when they hibernate. What is remarkable is that when they wake up, the synapses grow back. “Synapses sprout when the animals re-warm. Indeed animals learn better after they come out of hibernation,” she states. Understanding how the squirrels do this could be the watershed moment for Alzheimer’s patients. We at The Edge of the Wood wish Dr. Drew much luck with her ground squirrel…oops we mean ground breaking discoveries.
Here at the Edge of the Wood we are not sure if the residents organize into pee-wee soccer leagues when our backs are turned, but we do know they are extreme parkour practitioners. Squirrels have padded feet that cushion jumps from up to 20 feet and can run 20 mph. So next time you are choosing up sides for soccer, you might want to look up in a tree and ask a squirrel. Just make sure the ball isn’t made of peanuts.
To become a city squirrel of course. “As we rapidly increase the spread of urbanisation around the world, urban areas may end up being important places for some wildlife, so it would be good to know what they like about those areas, what allows them to do well.” says Dr Bill Bateman, “We need to know how we can help their continued success, and perhaps encourage other animals to share our urban spaces.” It seems squirrels are brilliant at living in cities as long as they can find a wide varied of foods to eat, and green spaces to chill in. Here At The Edge of The Wood we wish our city cousins the best…but the porch light will always be on.
Not for our birds. Some berries are higher in fat and energy, making them a better meal. On average a cedar waxwing consumes 228 dogwood berries a day. That would equal 184 pints of blueberries for an average human. Want to know about berries for birds? Head over to Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Everything will become berry clear.