How Birds Act As Pollinators
When we think of pollinators and attracting pollinators to our yard, we often think of bees and other insects, but birds are one of the most important pollinators on our planet. In North America, hummingbirds are one very important species of bird pollinators, but globally there are more than 2,000 bird species that help more than 300 families of flowering plants reproduce.
In our neck of the woods, birds are mostly responsible for pollinating wildflowers, rather than fruit trees or other crops. Nevertheless, this role in wildflower pollination is still very important for our environment and ecosystems. Native wildflowers are responsible for improving soil health, preventing erosion, and providing a food source for birds, insects, and small mammals. Wildflowers often have vibrant colors which help attract birds, bees, and other pollinators to their petals. Once the bird drinks the nectar from one flower, it will flit to the next, depositing the pollen from the first flower onto the second, thus completing the pollination process. Birds also consume insects and spiders who reside within flowers which allows them to pollinate without drinking nectar.
Hummingbirds As Pollinators
Hummingbirds are extremely effective at pollination and more than 8,000 plants in the Western Hemisphere rely on hummingbirds in order to reproduce. They are frequent feeders, consuming up to 8 times their body weight in nectar each day, which means they are able to visit many flowers, trees, shrubs, and vines during their active hours. Their long, thin beaks and tube-like tongues have evolved over time to adapt to drinking nectar which provides the fuel for their high metabolism. Many flower types have also evolved to be more appealing to hummingbirds, with their flower shapes supporting ease of feeding. Flower species that rely on hummingbirds for pollination often lack a platform for insects to land on and feature long, slender flower cones specifically designed for hummingbird beaks.
Bringing Bird Pollinators To Your Yard
Planting native wildflowers is a great way to encourage both feathered and non-feathered pollinators to visit your yard while also improving your soil quality and increasing the biodiversity in your outdoor space.
Choose varieties of flowering plants that appeal to birds including those with tube shapes, bright colors, and petals that are curved. Varieties include:
- Cardinal Flower
- Trumpet Honeysuckle
- Scarlet Beebalm
- Red Columbine
- Blue Lupine
Birds, along with bees, butterflies, and other insects all play an important role in pollination. This spring and summer, make your yard a pollinator haven and take some time to appreciate how birds help make our world a more beautiful, healthy place for us to live.