Bird Study – Economic Value Of Birds

WILD birds are now generally protected by law. Wander where you will through every province of Canada, and almost. every nook and corner of the United States, you will find that the lawmaker has been there before you, and has thrown over the birds the sheltering arm of prohibitory statutes. Legislators are not usually supposed to spend much energy on drafting and en-acting measures unless it is thought that these will result in practical benefit to at least some portion of their constituents. Legislative bodies are not much given to appropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the enforcement of a law which is purely sentimental in its nature. It is clear, there-fore, that our law makers regard the wild bird life as a great value to the country from the standpoint of dollars and cents.

Destructiveness of Insects.—If we go back a few years and examine certain widely read publications issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, we can understand more fully why our legislative bodies have regarded so seriously the subject of bird protection. In one of the Year Books of the Department we read that the annual loss to the cot-ton crop of the United States by insects amounts to sixty million dollars. We learn, too, that grasshoppers and other insects annually destroy fifty-three million dollars’ worth of hay and that two million dollars’ worth of cereals are each year eaten by our insect population. In fact, we are told that one-tenth of all the cereals, hay, cotton, tobacco, forests, and general farm products is the yearly tax which in-sects levy and collect. In some parts of the country market-gardening and fruit-growing are the chief industries of the people. Now, when a vegetable raiser or fruit grower starts to count up the cost of his crops, one of the items which he must take into consideration is the 25 per cent. of his products which goes to feed the insects of the surrounding country.

Not all insects are detrimental to man’s interests, but as we have just seen the Government officially states that many of them are tremendously destructive. Any one who has attempted to raise apples, for example, has made the unpleasant acquaintance of the codling moth and the curculio. Every season the apple raisers of the United States expend eight and one-quarter million dollars in spraying, to discourage the activities of these pests. In considering the troubles of the apple growers we may go even farther and count the twelve million dollars’ worth of fruit spoiled by the insects despite all the spraying which has taken place. Chinch bugs destroy wheat to the value of twenty million dollars a year, and the cotton-boll weevil costs the Southern planters an equal amount.