For Immediate Release – September 9, 2020
Watsonville, CA --- Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) has announced plans to create the first Songbird Farm Trail with the goal of one million nest boxes being installed on farms from Baja to British Columbia along North America’s Pacific Coast. A description of the project outlining the important role beneficial birds play on farms and the critical role farmers play in protecting declining bird populations is located on WFA’s Multimedia Story Platform titled Benefits of Birds on the Farm (bit.ly/SongbirdFarmTrail).
The Multimedia Story Platform provides additional information about beneficial birds as pest control allies, including research about how specific birds provide pest control for various types of crops and videos showcasing farmers’ strategies for attracting the right kind of birds.
Since 1970,more than 3 billion birds have been lost in North America according to a major study published in the journal Science in 2019. Habitat destruction and deterioration, pesticide use and climate change are some of the factors contributing to the alarming decline in bird populations. Located near the top of the food chain, birds are indicator species of biodiversity health.
“The disappearance of birds is a very troubling sign of the deteriorating health of our ecosystems across the country including on agricultural land,” says Jo Ann Baumgartner, executive director of WFA.
“Farmers are facing so many challenges including drought, floods and erratic weather,” says Baumgartner. “The recent catastrophic wildfires in California have damaged farms throughout the state, including near WFA’s office in Watsonville. One way that farmers can make their land more resilient is by attracting and supporting biodiversity, including beneficial birds, to their farms. By working with nature, farmers can control pests with less pesticide use, increase pollinators and make agricultural land healthier and more productive.”
Installation of bird boxes on farms replaces cavities that have been lost due to natural habitat destruction, and increases beneficial bird presence on farms. Farmers can help bring back songbirds and also benefit from avian pest control by providing places where birds can raise their young – a win-win for nature and agriculture.
If just 5% of the 22 million acres of cropland located in the western coastal states hosted a box, WFA could reach its goal of one million boxes. This past year, WFA installed 158 boxes with farmers. California farmer Paul Dolan of Truett Hurst Winery, a holistic vineyard and farm located in Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Valley, is one of the farmers who has installed boxes on the Songbird Farm Trail. The vineyard hosts Western Bluebird and Barn Owl boxes.
“Birds and bird boxes have been an integral part of our family vineyards from the first moment that we discovered the importance of building the self-regulating system of the farm,” says Dolan. “Diversity of flora and fauna in every aspect of the farm was critical - deep in the soil, in the tree canopy, amongst our grape vines, in our pasture and the integration into the natural woodlands surrounding us.”
WFA, with the help of farmers, will be tracking occupancy of bird boxes over time to collect data about the changes in local bird populations. This citizen science data will also help farmers realize the benefits they are receiving from providing bird habitat. WFA hopes that the Songbird Farm Trail will serve as a model that can be replicated on farmland throughout the US..
Farmers who already have nest boxes installed on their land can apply on the WFA website to be added to the Songbird Farm Trail. Farmers without nest boxes can order them from WFA. Non-farmers can also support the Songbird Farm Trail by sponsoring bird boxes.
WFA is a non-profit organization that works to promote a healthy, viable agriculture that helps to protect and restore wild nature. They work to empower farmers, connect consumers, and protect nature. WFA is a national organization, active for 20 years in efforts to rewild our farms.