Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

August 15, 1909. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 44(46): 4-S. Document title from paper page-top that included a picture of Griswold.

A Great Season for the Birds—How They Help The Farmer

Edited by Sandy Griswold.

Forest Field and Stream

The Farmers' Helpers.

Speaking about the unusual redundance of birds this year, reminds me that everyone should know, at least in a general way that birds render most valuable service to the farmer, but although these services have long been recognized in the laws standing on the statute books of the various states, it is only within a few years that any systematic investigations have been undertaken to determine just what these services are to to measure them with some approach to accuracy, to weigh in the case of each species the good and the evil done, and so to strike a balance, in favor of the bird or against it. The inquiries carried on by the agricultural department on a large scale and those made by various local experimental stations and by individual observers have given results which are very striking and which can no longer be ignored. This work deserves careful study, not only by every farmer but also by every one who is at all interested in birds or in agriculture in any form.

It is a difficult matter for any one to balance the good things that he reads and believes about any animal against the things that he actually sees. The man who witnesses the theft of his cherries by robin or catbird, or the killing of a quail by a marshhawk, feels that here he has ocular proof of harm done by the birds, while as to the insects or the field mice destroyed, and the crops saved, he has only the testimony of some unknown and distant witness. It is only natural that the observer should trust the evidence of his senses, and yet his eyes tell him only a small part of the truth, and that small part a misleading one. It is human to generalize from our own limited experience, and yet, we all know that nothing is more likely to lead to error.

It is certain that without the services of these feathered laborers whose work is unseen, though it lasts from daylight till dark through every day in the year, agriculture in this country would come next to a standstill and if in the brief season of fruit each one of these workers levies on the farmer the tribute of a few berries, the price is surely a small one to pay for the great work done. Superficial persons imagine that the birds are here only during the summer, but this is a great mistake. It is true that in warm weather, when insect life is most abundant birds are also more abundant. They wage an effective and unceasing war against the adult insects and their larvae and check their active depredations, but in winter the birds carry on a campaign which is hardly less important in its results. It is then that the chickadee, the nuthatch, the brown creeper, the kinglets and the flickers are hard at work all through the short days, searching the crevices and crannies in the bark of the tree trunk and branches, looking among the undergrowth, hunting along the fences for the bunches of eggs, the buried larvae and the pupa of the insects, which if undisturbed would, when warm weather comes, hatch out millions of creeping, crawling and flying things that would devastate garden and orchard and every crop of the field. It is through this silent, unceasing work by the birds—some in summer and others in winter—that the insect hosts are held in check. The downy woodpecker which we see swinging with undulated flight across the snow-clad fields renders service not less important than the fat robin which flies with a beak full of cankerworms to his clamorous young in the apple tree close to the house.

This Season's Birds.

Through the persistent effort of honest sportsmen, of the teachers in our schools and the writers of wholesome out-door literature, there has been a noticeable increase of most all species of our commonest birds during the past three or four years, and the present season is a most prolific one. The crop, so far, has certainly been a most abundant one and larger numbers of our old time and much beloved little songsters were to be seen and heard with most gratifying frequency in almost every field, wood and creek valley since the spring's advent. Even the blue birds, considered all but extinct in many parts of the country three years ago, came back in something like their old-day numbers this spring and just now a drive of a few miles in the country to any direction will reveal their bright azure coats in almost every copse and on every fence post. The creepers, waxwings, tomtits, chickadees, sap-suckers, warblers, and in fact all the little feathered beauties which were so common in the years gone by, seemed to have come back to us in such numbers as to bear potent testimony to the progress of the good cause.

It has come to pass that a large number of those people who resort to the woods and fields for recreation and pleasure have been metamorphosed into staunch advocates of the protection of our birds. They present two sets of reasons for this guardianship of the feathery hosts, the one sentimental and the other economic.

The sentimental reasons are the ones most often urged; they are also of a kind to appeal with especial force to those whose responsibility for the destruction of the birds is greatest. The women and girls, for whose adornment birds' plumage is chiefly used, think little and know less about the services which birds perform for agriculture, and indeed, it may be doubted whether the sight of a bunch of feathers or a stuffed bird's skin suggests to them any thought of the life that these feathers once represented. But when the wearers are reminded that there was such a life; that it was cheery and beautiful, and that it was cut short merely that their apparel might be adorned, they are quick to recognize that bird destruction involves a wrong and are ready to do their part toward remedying it by refusing to wear their plumage.

The small boy, who pursues little birds from the standpoint of the hunter in quest of his game, feels only the ardor of pursuit. His whole mind is concentrated on that and the hunter's selfishness, the desire of possession fills his heart. Ignorance and thoughtlessness destroy many of the birds.