Date: 7/9/18 3:22 pm From: Jerry Davis <jwdavis...> Subject: Birds and Mosquitoes - There Are Connections
Birds and Mosquitoes – There Are Connections
Most are aware that mosquitoes are an important food source for birds like swallows, nighthawks and mammals such as bats and even fish but there are other connections other than being important as food. In the past three years, Alaska has been in a significant drought as has most states in the lower 48 states with drought lasting for decades in the west. The glaciers are retreating rapidly and the tundra is on fire. This drought has created a shortage of mosquitoes that need water for reproduction. Some of you will think this is great, but a few will understand the reason why it is not so great from the standpoint of birds and other wildlife.
When I was looking for the Arctic Warbler along the Denali Highway a few days ago, it was difficult to think that so many mosquitoes was a good thing although ecologically I knew how important they were to the ecosystem. Even though I sprayed down with DEET, they got under may glasses to my eyes and eyelids and in my ears and for birders needing to use binoculars and a camera, a head-net is not a very practical option.
With the drought and the decline of mosquitoes and other insects it impacted everything from birds to bears. In high school you learned that female mosquitoes are the ones that bite and need blood for egg development. The males mosquito feeds on plants and are a key plant pollinator. With the mosquito population down during the dry years, the berry and fruit production was down. This impacted the food sources from birds to bears. Wildlife depending on fruits and berries did not have adequate food and fat reserves going into the winter and had to forage over greater areas to survive and they produced fewer young and more reproductive failures.
I know that most will not be cheering on the mosquitoes. At least remember that they are important to birds, other wildlife, plant pollination and plant reproduction, and are important in sustaining wildlife and wildlife habitat. Jerry Wayne Davis July 9, 2018