With 32 nest boxes that support a multitude of mostly Tree Swallows and Western Bluebirds, Blue Heron Farms is an oasis for birds, as their name implies. Every spring, pairs of these birds begin scouting for their ideal box as they hunt pest insects in the air and on the ground.
Once their voracious nestlings hatch, they ramp up their insect consumption, helping to keep pest insect numbers down even more. When the Tree Swallows finish nesting and leave the farm in late summer, Dennis notices an increase in flea beetle scarring damage to their cole crops. Bluebirds do their part too—much of their diet is composed of mosquitoes, stink bugs, and caterpillars.
Dr. Daniel Karp is a conservation biologist and ornithologist at UC Davis. His work focuses on developing strategies to co-manage agriculture for production, conservation, and food safety. In this video he describes how removing habitat is ineffective at improving food safety and may compromise the valuable pest-control benefits that farmers realize from birds.