Food for thought
Whether or not you feed birds in your yard, you probably know that one way to attract them is with fruit. Fresh or dried apples, oranges, berries, pears, bananas, and other fruits can help bring orioles, mockingbirds, robins, and catbirds to your feeding station, and hummingbirds may arrive to feed on fruit flies that the fruit attracts. That’s far from the whole story of birds and fruit, however.
Two articles in this issue pertain to fruit, and they show both positive and negative sides of fruit and fruit crops.
Lisa Brunetti, an American birder and nature artist who lives in western Ecuador, tells the story (page 26) of her encounters with the rare Brown Wood-Rail, a bird of mangroves and swampy woodlands of western areas of Ecuador and Colombia. For the last few years, a group of the rails has visited the yard of the house where she lived to feed on a particular banana plant. The birds’ affinity for the fruit enabled Lisa to observe their behavior closely — a rare chance for a naturalist to document the life history of this secretive species.
The following story, Brian Kluepfel’s terrific profile of the critically endangered Great Green Macaw (page 34), notes that in Costa Rica, pineapple production has a significant negative impact on the macaw and other native flora and fauna. Pineapples have become a monoculture crop that are “essentially deserts to wildlife,” one source says.
So, while feeding fruits to birds in your yard is a good thing, it’s worth remembering that fruit farming can harm birds and other wildlife. Keep this in mind on your next trip to the grocery store.
Matt Mendenhall, editor