Interconnections Between the Birds & the Bees
Studies of Birds and Insects Illuminate Interconnections in Nature
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
While they seem to fill very separate niches within the environment, birds and insects share some critical symbiotic relationships. Both birds and insects play vital roles in the places and spaces they inhabit, and though their roles are not shared, they are sometimes dependent upon one another. Exploring the relationship between the two can illuminate interconnections found within nature and highlight how life forms develop relationships based on one another’s roles in a landscape.
Though most bird-insect relationships are predator-prey relationships, there are ways in which the two types of creatures exist in symbiosis – through the insects serving as meals might beg to differ about the extent to which such a relationship is truly symbiotic. Though bird-insect relationships generally result in someone getting eaten, they’re still essential to the survival of not only birds but some plants as well.
Some clever bird species spend their days with animal species that carry their favorite insect snacks around on their backs. In contrast, others depend on meal-worthy caterpillars to activate the release of a unique scent in trees to alert them to the caterpillars’ presence – providing the necessary fuel for themselves and saving the trees from having their leaves mowed down by insect mandibles.
As spring arrives and the landscape awakens, local species will become more and more visible. Watch for local insect and bird populations (look closely!), and see if you can identify any symbiotic and/or predator-prey relationships between species who live nearby—identifying who eats what or co-habitats with (and where!) can provide insight into the connections found within the local environment.
Before searching for connections, brush up on insect identification using www.insectimages.org, an online tool offering detailed information and fantastic images of insect species from all around the world. Insect enthusiasts can even jam to the Hilltown Family Variety Show Insect Episode.
Since birds are more accessible to spot than insects, identifying them can be much less of a challenge. However, true nature sleuths may discover evidence of bird visitors – in such a case, check out the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service’s Feather Atlas, an online archive of the feathers of over 350 different bird species!