Current Ornithology Volume 13, 1996, pp 175-269

Past and Current Attempts to Evaluate the Role of Birds as Predators of Insect Pests in Temperate Agriculture

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Abstract

Many bird species consume large quantities of invertebrates, some of which are considered agricultural pests. However, relatively few quantitative studies demonstrate that avian predators can reduce agricultural insect pests below a level at which unchecked populations would cause economic damage to crops or require treatment with pesticides. In fact, since the subject of economic ornithology (“all relations of birds that has any bearing upon the material welfare of [humans]”— McAtee, 1933) was last reviewed (e.g., McFarlane, 1976; Sweetman, 1958), there have been only a handful of published studies on the role of birds in agricultural ecosystems, and most of these refer to small-plot effects, with no attempt to aggregate the results at the level of an agricultural economic unit, i.e., the farm.