Ornithology - Applications

Applications

Wild birds impact many human activities while domesticated birds are important sources of eggs, meat, feathers and other products. Applied and economic ornithology aim to reduce the ill effects of problem birds and enhance gains from beneficial species.

The role of some species of birds as pests has been well known, particularly in agriculture. Granivorous birds such as the queleas in Africa are among the most numerous birds in the world and foraging flocks can cause devastation. Many insectivorous birds are also noted as beneficial in agriculture. Many early studies on the benefits or damages caused by birds in fields were made by analysis of stomach contents and observation of feeding behaviour. Modern studies aimed to manage birds in agriculture make use of a wide range of principles from ecology. Intensive aquaculture has brought humans in conflict with fish-eating birds such as cormorants.

Large flocks of pigeons and starlings in cities are often considered as a nuisance and techniques to reduce their populations or their impacts are constantly innovated. Birds are also of medical importance and their role as carriers of human diseases such as Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile Virus and H5N1 have been widely recognised. Bird strikes and the damage they cause in aviation are of particularly great importance, due to the fatal consequences and the level of economic losses caused. It has been estimated that the airline industry incurs worldwide damages of US $ 1.2 billion each year.

Many species of birds have been driven to extinction by human activities. Being conspicuous elements of the ecosystem, they have been considered as indicators of ecological health. They have also helped in gathering support for habitat conservation. Bird conservation requires specialized knowledge in aspects of biology, ecology and may require the use of very location specific approaches. Ornithologists contribute to conservation biology by studying the ecology of birds in the wild and identifying the key threats and ways of enhancing the survival of species. Critically endangered species such as the California Condor have had to be captured and bred in captivity. Such ex-situ conservation measures may be followed by re-introduction of the species into the wild.

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