ARE BIRDS GOOD OR BAD FOR THE GARDEN?
My Dad’s favorite avocations were gardening and bird watching. As I was growing up in Missouri and Michigan, I do not remember Dad having any problems with birds in his gardens. I did not have any problems with birds in my first garden at New Salisbury, Indiana. However during my 22 years of gardening in El Paso, Texas, the Mockingbirds would indiscriminately peck on one ripe tomato and then another and another.
Rockport and Aransas County on the South Texas Coast are major fly ways for birds flying to Mexico and Central/South America in the fall and returning in the spring. My wife is a bird watcher, rehabber for Wings Rescue Center in Rockport, and we are a Hummingbird Home for the Hummingbird Celebration each September. During these ten years of gardening here the Mockingbirds, the state bird of Texas, have observed when the tomatoes ripen and pecked away despite the row cover and netting I have used to cover the tomatoes. The waves of various Orioles have sometimes damaged my pole beans in the fall.
This spring the Orioles in their beautiful orange and black colors pecked the ripening Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes over a 2 day period before leaving for northern nesting areas. Hurricane Harvey blew away most of our resident Mockingbirds so there has been no damage from them. However, my wife has released several Mockingbirds she has raised this spring.
My observations are that insect eating birds like wrens, flycatchers, Mockingbirds, titmice, and warblers like visiting my garden regularly to see what insects are available. Grasshoppers have been plentiful this year. Overall, I think birds are far more beneficial to my garden than they do damage.
One of the birds Harvette raised this year was a Greater Kiskadee, the largest and most beautiful of the flycatchers. A storm blew the nest out of a tree at George West, Texas about 92 miles from Rockport. Two of the baby birds fell out of the nest and died, but this one stayed in the large well-built nest. Harvette never handled the Kiskadee but fed it through the cage door or later through the bars. I catch grasshoppers for her birds to eat. Occasionally I would drop a grasshopper through the top cage bars into its mouth. It has two or three loud calls including “kiskadee” that would welcome me to the garage each morning. It was released on June 3rd, 2018.
The first day this robin sized bird with a black and white stripped head, yellow chest, and rust colored back landed on my shoulder and head while I was
working in the garden. I gave it grasshoppers and corn worms. Now nearly every morning when I am catching grasshoppers out in front of our house, the Kiskadee will land on my hat, shoulder, arm, hand, or the net handle expecting to be given from 4 to 6 grasshoppers which it softens up with it bill and then flips into the air to be caught head first and swallowed.